A test that costs less than a $1 and yields results in minutes has been shown in newly published studies to be more sensitive and more exact than the current standard test for early-stage prostate cancer. The simple test developed by University of Central Florida and Florida Hospital Cancer Institute researchers holds the promise of earlier detection of one of the deadliest cancers among men. It would also reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive biopsies stemming from the less precise PSA test that’s now used.
The team state that the test is simple. It’s much better than the test currently available, which is the PSA, and it’s cost-effective. The study is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
The researchers go on to explain that when a cancerous tumour begins to develop, the body mobilizes to produce antibodies. The test in the current study detects that immune response using gold nanoparticles about 10,000 times smaller than a freckle. When a few drops of blood serum from a finger prick are mixed with the gold nanoparticles, certain cancer biomarkers cling to the surface of the tiny particles, increasing their size and causing them to clump together.
Previous studies have shown that gold nanoparticles are extremely efficient at absorbing and scattering light. The team developed a technique known as nanoparticle-enabled dynamic light scattering assay (NanoDLSay) to measure the size of the particles by analyzing the light they throw off. That size reveals whether a patient has prostate cancer and how advanced it may be. And although it uses gold, the test is cheap. A small bottle of nanoparticles suspended in water costs about $250, and contains enough for about 2,500 tests. With the team stating that the test’s impact is going to be big.
After lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second-leading killer cancer among men, with more than 240,000 new diagnoses and 28,000 deaths every year, state the researchers. The most commonly used screening tool is the PSA, but it produces so many false-positive results, leading to painful biopsies and extreme treatments, that one of its discoverers recently called it hardly more effective than a coin toss.
The current study found that the team’s technique is significantly more exact. The test determines with 90 to 95 percent confidence that the result is not false-positive. When it comes to false-negatives, there is 50 percent confidence, not ideal, but still significantly higher than the PSA’s 20 percent. The team are now working to improve the test’s already higher number.
The team are now pursuing more extensive clinical validation studies with collaborators. They hope to complete major clinical trials and see the test being used by physicians within three years. The researchers are also researching their new technique’s effectiveness as a screening tool for other tumour-types.
The team state that potentially, this could be a universal screening test for cancer, adding that their vision is to develop an array of blood tests for early detection and diagnosis of all major cancer types. These blood tests would all based on the same technique and procedure.
The team have now co-founded Nano Discovery Inc., a start-up company headquartered in a UCF Business Incubator, to commercialize the new diagnostic test.
Source: University of Central Florida