Possible lung cancer test 'has potential' says Cancer Research UK
Australian researchers have discovered a marker which could provide an early-warning that prostate cancer patients have an aggressive form of the disease.
Some men develop slow-growing prostate cancers that cause few problems, while others have cancers that grow and spread more quickly.
Currently, there is no firmly established test to tell the difference between these two types. So some men receive unnecessary treatment.
Lead author Professor Sue Henshall, senior researcher at the Garvan Institute of Australia, said that the new marker may, with further research, provide an effective way to identify tumours that will spread, or 'metastasise'.
"We have discovered that men who have low levels of a marker called AZGP1 in the prostate at the time of surgery, have a greatly increased risk of developing metastatic cancer," she said.
"This means two things: that these men could benefit from more aggressive treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy around the time of surgery when they still have potentially curable cancer; and that patients with a low risk of developing metastatic disease will have the option of deferring treatments that have a negative impact on quality of life."
The avenue of research is one of a number of similar studies conducted around the globe.
In 2004 Cancer Research UK scientists led by professor Colin Cooper identified a gene, known as E2F3, which seemed to be over-active in fast-growing prostate cancers.
And in July this year, an international collaborative suggested that an extra-large copy of chromosome eight could also be linked to more aggressive cancers
Henry Scowcroft, of Cancer Research UK, commented: "It's an exciting time for prostate cancer research. Many groups around the world are looking for ways to tackle the tricky clinical problem of how to predict how a man's prostate cancer will develop.
"But all these potential new markers will need to be studied in the population at large, before they could ever be used in a diagnostic test. It's more likely that a combination of several markers will provide the best indicator of how a man's disease will develop.
The study is published in the US Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Find out more about prostate cancer diagnosis on cancerhelp.org.uk