Scientists have created a blood test which diagnoses prostate cancer and identifies what stage the disease is at with 99 per cent accuracy.
Nottingham Trent University medics and clinicians developed the method in a bid to reduce invasive biopsies needed to confirm prostate cancer.
Scientists believe around 12,000 British men will die from prostate cancer in the UK this year.
Building on previous work the scientists found changes in the immune system can be identified in the blood of a patient.
The signals for the cancer are identified predominantly due to alterations in the white blood cells.
After blood is extracted, computers analyse the sample for signs of the disease and categorise it as either low, intermediate or high-risk.
These methods are 99 per cent accurate, according to the researchers who created the test.
Current blood tests for prostate cancer look for an elevated level of a ‘prostate specific antigen’ (PSA) and if the test is positive then a patient is sent for a biopsy.
However, this method can be flawed as not all patients have elevated PSA levels, and some men who do not have the cancer have naturally high PSA levels.
This leads to either unnecessary investigations or missed diagnoses.
The new method would be administered to men who received a positive diagnosis from the PSA test and benefit men who are showing no symptoms but have a slightly elevated PSA level.
‘New interventions for more accurately detecting the presence of prostate cancer are urgently needed,’ said Professor Graham Pockley, Director of Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Centre.
‘Our approach not only identifies presence of the disease, but also – crucially – its clinical significance.
‘We can also do this with higher accuracy than current approaches.
‘This will spare men from having unnecessary invasive procedures and help clinicians to decide whether to ‘watch’ or ‘actively manage’ patients, even when they are asymptomatic but have mildly higher PSA levels.
‘Due to the reduction in unnecessary biopsies, this would also result in significant savings for the NHS.’
Professor Masood Khan, consultant urologist at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust and Visiting Professor at Nottingham Trent University, said: ‘Improving our ability to detect men harbouring clinically significant prostate cancer will not only reduce the burden on the NHS but also avoid the unnecessary psychological impact of being diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer.’
The research is published in the journal eLife.