One of the procedures involved in the diagnosis of prostate cancer is a highly invasive and uncomfortable biopsy. Prostate biopsy is one of the most dreaded procedures for men, and it’s highly controversial because of the incurred side effects and the fact that many of the patients don’t actually need it.
An alternative and less invasive method of prostate cancer detection with a high rate of accuracy may have been discovered by American researchers. Their findings were inspired by dogs’ ability to detect prostate cancer with a higher degree of accuracy (at least 97%) through the odor of urine. Scientists are now trying to replicate dogs’ sniffing superpowers experimentally, hoping to pave the way to a new, highly accurate and non-invasive diagnostic procedure.
Given the prostate’s location adjacent to the urethra, it seems plausible that a cancerous growth in the area can affect the molecular composition of the urine. Thus, the scientists Mangilal Agarwal and Amanda Siegel knew they had to scrutinize the molecules responsible for the presumable odor of prostate cancer in urine.
The researchers collected and analyzed urine samples from 100 men who endured the dreaded procedure. To ‘see’ the scent of prostate cancer in the urine, they scrutinized the spatial immediacies of the samples with chromatography-mass spectrometry. By means of this method, they were able to isolate a small set of suspect molecules. They observed that these compounds where overwhelmingly present in males diagnosed with prostate cancer, and absent from cancer-free subjects.
Given the promising discovery, researchers hope to bump this research line with larger scale tests at multiple health centers. If these compounds prove to be effective biomarkers of prostate cancer, the doors will be open to improve decision-making conditions for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Siegel believes that a urine test for prostate cancer is entirely possible given dogs’ amazing ability to smell it (which had been shown in a 2014 study). According to the researchers, a simple and ingenious sensor could be developed to detect prostate cancer from urine’s smell. But first, the team needs to validate their findings. They plan to do this by comparing their newly found molecular signature with that which a dog is capable of detecting. To this end, they plan to collaborate with a dog trainer.
Prostate cancer affects more than half of men in old age, being the second most common type of cancer worldwide. Many victims are not diagnosed because of the incredibly invasive and uncomfortable prostate biopsy. Replacing this dubious procedure with a much more modest, faster and accurate procedure could dramatically streamline the screening and diagnosing of prostate cancer, as well as invite more men to become proactive for the sake of prevention.