Nanotech-based innovative prostate cancer test helps bypass unneeded painful biopsies

Nanotechnology makes the headlines again, this time saving men from painful biopsies for aggressive prostate cancer diagnosis.

Who, Where and What- Researchers of the Alberta Prostate Cancer Research Initiative (APCaRI) in Alberta, Canada developed a highly sensitive blood test that incorporates an exceptional nanotechnology platform to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer using only a single drop of blood.How- The test, called Extracellular Vesicle Fingerprint Predictive Score (EV-FPS), uses artificial intelligence to combine information from millions of cancer cell nanoparticles in the blood to identify the unique fingerprint of aggressive prostate cancer.

The diagnostic was appraised in 377 Albertan men who had received urologist referrals for suspected prostate cancer. EV-FPS identified men with the aggressive disease 40% more precisely than the widespread test in use nowadays- the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test.

“For this kind of test you want the sensitivity to be as high as possible because you don’t want to miss a single cancer that should be treated,” said John Lewis, the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair of Prostate Cancer Research at the University of Alberta.

University of Alberta prostate cancer researcher Dr. John Lewis, left, and graduate student Srijan Raha in their lab.  Image credit: University of Alberta

Why- The team points out that current screening tests like PSA and digital rectal exam (DRE) often pave way for unneeded biopsies. Lewis believes half the men undergoing biopsy do not have prostate cancer and yet have to endure biopsy-associated pain and side effects such as infection or sepsis. Fewer than 20% of men undergoing prostate biopsy are those diagnosed with the aggressive form of prostate cancer; the cohort that could most benefit from treatment. From a larger perspective, we’re all aware of the load on hospitals and doctors around the world. Successful implementation of the EV-FPS could potentially put an end to about 600,000 unnecessary biopsies, 24,000 hospitalizations and about 50% unnecessary treatments for prostate cancer each year in North America alone. Most importantly, the new diagnostic will have an enormous positive affect on the quality of life and healthcare experience for men and their families.

The team plans to bring the test from benchside to market through University of Alberta spin-off company Nanostics Inc.

Personal Opinion- If this test for aggressive prostate cancer proves successful and viable, the research team may extend its implementation to the diagnosis of other aggressive cancer types.

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