RNA Molecules in Urine and Tissues Show Promise as Biomarkers for Prostate Cancer
Researchers at the Sanford- Burnham Medical Research Institute have discovered a group of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that are present in tissues and urine of prostate cancer patients but not in normal healthy individuals. “The study sets the stage for the development of more sensitive and specific noninvasive tests for prostate cancer than those currently available, which could result in fewer unnecessary prostate biopsies with less treatment-related morbidity, according to a new study in The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men after skin cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates there to be about 220,800 new cases of prostate cancer this year and about 27,540 deaths. Approximately 1 man in 7 will develop the disease. September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and we here at Path Report have been providing valuable information all month long. Let’s look at some of the newest and most exciting research into the disease.
Current screening for prostate cancer involves a blood test for prostate specific antigen (PSA). PSA is a protein secreted by the prostate. It is elevated in 80% of prostate cancers but also can be seen due to benign causes. These include common conditions such as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, prostate enlargement) and inflammation. An elevated PSA is a red flag and an indication to undergo further testing to determine the cause.
There is much controversy surrounding the PSA test. One of our best markers for detecting prostate cancer has been the PSA test. However, critics point to the risks of overdiagnosis and overtreatment of indolent cancers that would otherwise not have impacted the patient.
What is needed is an accurate test to discriminate early low grade cancers that would otherwise cause no harm from aggressive high grade cancers. This may have come true with lncRNAs. lncRNAs are segments of DNA that do not code for proteins but instead serve regulatory functions for other genes. Once considered “junk DNA” and representing about 98% of the genome, the crucial functions this portion of the genome plays in health and disease are just being realized.
lncRNAs are creating much excitement as effective biomarkers for prostate cancer. The technology has already been put to use in the PCA3 test. Additional tests are likely to follow. Keep following Path Report for developments.