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Prostate diagnosis may no longer leave men prostrate

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An advance in diagnosis could enable men with prostate cancer to avoid unnecessary surgery and its associated complications.

In a development with major implications for the on-going debate about the need to screen for and remove prostate cancers, researchers at Cancer Council Victoria’s Cancer Epidemiology Centre and TissuPath Specialist Pathology have identified three biomarkers that can be used to identify those prostate cancer tumours most likely to prove deadly.

The researchers found that men whose tumours contained either of the proteins MUCI or p53 were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as those without them, while the presence of the protein AZGPI indicated a man was three times less likely to die from the disease.

“Only a minority of prostate cancer diagnoses lead to death but, due to a lack of markers of aggressive disease, many non-lethal cancers are still treated aggressively,” study author Dr Liesel FitzGerald told the Herald Sun. “If this preliminary study is validated, this research can inform clinical practice so both doctors and patients understand whether their tumour is likely to progress, and make more informed decisions on how best to treat it.”

More than 18,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, and many undergo surgery to have their prostate removed – an operation that can potentially cause devastating life-long side-effects such as impotence and incontinence.

Such aggressive treatment has become increasingly controversial given the inability of doctors currently to determine which tumours are likely to turn deadly, and hence avoid unnecessary surgery and its attendant complications.

Adrian Rollins