New tool provides alternate method of prostate Ca diagnosis

April 21, 2011

Rather than looking for tumors directly in patients with prostate cancer, analyzing non-tumor tissue may be an effective option as well, according to a recent study.

Rather than looking for tumors directly in patients with prostate cancer, analyzing non-tumor tissue may be an effective option as well, according to a recent study.

"A biopsy needle does not need to hit a tumor to detect the presence of tumor," said lead researcher Dan Mercola, MD, PhD, of the University of California at Irvine. "It is reminiscent of the game 'Battleship;' we can detect more cancer cases using 12 shots with a biopsy needle than would otherwise be the case because we have made the ships bigger.

"Changes in the non-tumor tissue surrounding the tumor have long been considered to be important to tumor growth. Interfering with this process could have therapeutic value," Dr. Mercola added. "The information in non-tumor tissue indicating 'presence of tumor' or not indicates who needs urgent re-biopsy and allows patients to consider alternative therapies to surgery or radiation such as neoadjuvant therapy or prostate cancer prevention treatment."

Dr. Mercola and colleagues obtained 364 samples from men of all races who underwent biopsy or radical prostatectomy, as well as control prostates from donors who had died of other causes. The team observed changes in the nearby non-tumor tissue and found that changes in gene expression in normal tissue could be detected up to a few millimeters from prostate cancer.

"It is known that at least some prostate cancers cause a reaction in nearby stroma," Dr. Mercola said. "However, we were surprised that a reaction may occur for most tumors, and that this response in non-tumor tissue may extend for many millimeters from the tumor."

Further studies will be required to confirm the findings and before urologists will likely be able to use a diagnosis based on non-tumor tissue for recommending surgery or other radical treatment, according to the researchers.

Results from the study were published in Cancer Research (2011; 71:2476-87).