Thousands of men are testing a new home test kit for prostate cancer
Thousands of men around the world are getting a home test kit for prostate cancer thanks to groundbreaking research from the University of East Anglia and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
Photo credit: University of East Anglia
The research team is testing a new home test prostate screening box to collect urine samples from men at home. The urine samples will be used to analyze prostate health in 2,000 men in the UK, Europe and Canada.
This simple urine test is designed to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer and, in a pilot study, predict which patients needed treatment up to five years earlier than standard clinical methods.
The Prostate Screening Box was developed in partnership with REAL Digital International Limited to create a kit that would fit in a standard mailbox.
This means men can get a urine sample in the comfort of their own home instead of going to a clinic or undergoing an awkward rectal exam. The research team hopes it could revolutionize diagnosis of the disease.
Lead researcher Dr. Jeremy Clark of the UEA’s Norwich Medical School said, “Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. However, it usually develops slowly and most cancers do not require treatment in a man’s life. It is not easy to predict which tumors will become aggressive, which makes it difficult for many men to decide which treatment to use. “
“The most common tests used for prostate cancer include blood tests, a physical exam called a digital rectal exam (DRE), an MRI scan, or a biopsy.”
“We developed the PUR (Prostate Urine Risk) test, which examines gene expression in urine samples and provides important information about whether a cancer is aggressive or has a low risk.
“The prostate screening box part sounds like a fairly small innovation, but it does mean that monitoring cancer in men in the future could be much less stressful for them and reduce the number of expensive trips to hospital.
“The prostate is just below the bladder. It is constantly producing secretions that naturally flow into the urethra – the tube through which urine flows from the bladder. The prostate secretions carry cells and molecules from all over the prostate that are flushed out of the body when you urinate. We collect these and examine them. It is a way of removing the entire prostate at once.
“Because the prostate is constantly secreting itself, the levels of biomarkers in the urethra will increase over time. Collecting from day one means secretions can be collected overnight, which makes the analysis more sensitive. “
The team previously tested the kit with a small group of participants, but will roll it out to thousands in the next phase of the research study.
Men participating in the study will be given a home urine collection kit and asked to provide two urine samples – one to be taken first in the morning and the second an hour later. The samples are then sent back to the laboratory for analysis.
Dr. Clark said, “Feedback from early participants indicated that home collection was preferred to hospital sampling.
“We hope that the use of our Prostate Screening Box can revolutionize active monitoring for disease progression in the future, as men do not need to go to the clinic until they have a positive urine result.
“This is in contrast to the current situation where men are called back to the clinic every six to 12 months for a range of tests, including DRE, PSA tests, painful and expensive biopsies, and MRIs. We are working on developing the test to help patients in three years.
“A negative test could allow men to be retested only every two to three years, which will relieve the patient and reduce the workload in the hospital,” he added.
This simple, non-invasive urine test can dramatically change the way we diagnose and treat early-stage prostate cancer, for the benefit of patients and healthcare systems. This can enable us to avoid unnecessary diagnosis of a low risk disease and to treat patients more appropriately with adequate monitoring for patients at low risk of progression and early curative treatment for patients at high risk of progression. “
Robert Mills, Consultative Clinical Director, Urology, NNUH
Paul Villanti, Movember’s Executive Director of Programs, said, “The PUR test has great potential to change the way prostate cancer is treated. Not only can it accurately predict when a man’s disease will become aggressive and need treatment, but it has the added benefit that men can do it at home.
“We are proud to have supported the development of the PUR test from the beginning as part of our Global Biomarker Action Plan through to this study with thousands of men around the world.
“Through our global active surveillance action plan, we have identified hundreds of men from the UK, Germany, Italy and Canada who are eligible to participate in this study.
“We hope this will accelerate the progress of the study and incorporate this test into clinical care for men as soon as possible.”
The research was funded by an innovation award from Movember and Prostate Cancer UK, the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Bob Champion Cancer Trust, the King Family, the Andy Ripley Memorial Fund, the Hargrave Foundation, Norfolk Freemasons, and the Tesco Centenary Grant.
University of East Anglia