The study, led by scientists from the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Cambridge Research Institute and The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), was published online on 13 October in PLoS ONE, an open access scientific journal from the Public Library of Science. Scientists from other research centres in the UK, Australia, Spain and the US were also involved in the study.
Lead author Dr Hayley Whitaker, from CRUK's Cambridge Research Institute, told the press that the protein, microseminoprotein-beta (MSMB), is "easy to detect because it is found in urine and would potentially be a very simple test to carry out on men to identify those most at risk".
Whitaker and colleagues built on earlier genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that had linked a genetic change linked to prostate cancer risk with a significant reduction in MSMB protein.
The protein, which is produced by normal prostate cells and secreted into urine from semen, regulates cell apoptosis or programmed cell death and is linked to an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
MSMB is the second most abundant protein in semen after prostate specific antigen (PSA), the protein used in the current test for prostate cancer.
The reason that people are getting excited about this research is because unlike PSA, levels of this protein appear to be unaffected by an enlarged prostate or by hormones, thus raising the hope that it will lead to a more reliable test.
There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the current PSA test, for instance whether to use it for routine prostate cancer screening like the mammography test is used for breast cancer screening, because PSA can go up for reasons other than prostate cancer, and not all prostate cancers raise PSA.
One hope is that a test based on MSMB could be used in conjunction with PSA to help identify men at greater risk of developing prostate cancer.
(Medical News Today)
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