Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed what could be a promising new test to help determine the aggressiveness of prostate cancer, says a Bay Area urologist who specializes in treating the disease, although patients may not realize any benefits for another decade or longer.
The researchers claim their test, called the Prostate Health Index (PHI), would show which patients' cancer was likely to progress rapidly. The preliminary results of the study were reported in USA Today this month.
The test is expected to attract much attention in California, where more men die from prostate cancer annually than in any other state, according to the National Prostate Cancer Coalition. Nationwide, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
Dr. Judson Brandeis, a urologist at Pacific Urology in Contra Costa County, urges caution in expecting this new test to be available anytime soon due to the small study of only 70 patients. The PHI test requires further studies on many more patients and then must meet approval by the Food and Drug Administration, a process that could take ten years or more.
"Thousands of men every year are diagnosed with prostate cancer, but only a fraction of them will die of the disease," said Brandeis. "We need to determine which men with prostate cancer will actually die from it instead of living with it."
The current standard for detecting prostate cancer is a blood analysis of the Prostate Specific Antigen, a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test has been at the center of recent controversy following clinical reports casting doubt on its accuracy.
"For now, the PSA test is still the best cancer screening method that we currently have," Brandeis said.