A new genetic test that is in development, might be able to differentiate between slow growing and aggressive prostate tumours. This could have the potential of sparing men unnecessary operations.
Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in the UK with more than 40000 cases diagnosed each year and over 10 000 deaths a year. One of the biggest challenges that face men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, is whether to remove the gland or not. Currently the decision is made by taking samples of the prostate ( biopsies) and then examining it under a microscope. However, removing the prostate comes at a cost, with potential side effects such as infertility and erectile problems , as well as urinary incontinence.

Some prostate cancers are very aggressive and have to be removed, however other forms are slow growing and less aggressive. Discriminating between the different types, would be a big advance. The new test being developed looks at the activity level of genes in the sample of the tumour. If 31 genes involved in controlling how cells divide, are highly active, this indicates and aggressive cancer.

Although the early indications are good, there is still a long way to go before the test comes to market and it potentially will be costly, but it could be a game changer for men affected by the condition. It could just spare thousands of men from unnecessary surgery and the associated side effects and also identify the population that requires most urgen treatenent