October 13th, 2017
Prostate cancer is a common cause of morbidity and mortality in men. Over the years, scientists have developed numerous ways to simplify the diagnostic and treatment protocols for the management of prostate cancer in men to ensure early detection and management of cancer.
In a latest series of experiments, investigators have discovered a molecule (sarcosine) that can help in further simplifying the detection of prostate cancer. Team of investigators suggested that sarcosine is produced as a byproduct of metabolic processes involving glycine and is excreted from the body via urine. High urinary levels of sarcosine are suggestive of prostate cancer. Investigators believe that sarcosine levels can replace the need for invasive procedures like biopsy for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
The research was led by University of Michigan professor, Dr. Christopher Beecher as well as investigators from other states. The results of this study were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
As part of the study, investigators analyzed the metabolic byproducts and chemicals from the urine test if over 262patients who were diagnosed with the malignancy of prostate gland. The patients were in different stages of disease and hence the sample contained urines from patients who were in the early stage to patients who were being managed for terminal disease with advanced metastasis.
Investigators observed that the concentration of certain metabolites (or byproducts of metabolic reactions in the body)changes with the stage of disease. Investigators already had a list of compounds that were being studied or shortlisted in other studies as “likely suspect”; however, Beecher and his team widen their research to include a number of other metabolites too.
The hard work paid off as sarcosine was not a part of the list of “likely suspect”. In fact, it was among the least expected metabolites in words of Beecher. Besides sarcosine, 6 other metabolites were found to be associated with the severity and staging of prostate cancer, but sarcosine’s role was most substantial.
Besides sarcosine, there is another compound/ metabolite that is very strongly linked to prostate cancer. PCA3 test detects PCA3 levels in the urine and is only present in the urine test of patients who have prostate cancer. Although it is more specific, there is not enough evidence to establish an association.
This research study is believed to change the way prostate cancer is diagnosed and managed. It is also believed that this test would be superior to serum PSA levels in the setting of prostate cancer diagnosis/ screening. Urine test analysis is not only non-invasive, it is also more cost-efficient. According to latest estimates, 3 in 10 prostate cancer patients die within 5-years of diagnosis of prostate malignancy.
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