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Significant developments in a new urine test for prostate cancer

Researchers describe the progress of a simple and non-invasive new urine test for prostate cancer that’s currently in development.

Prostate cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers among men. Although there are effective treatments, such as radiotherapy and surgery for localized prostate cancer, men diagnosed with more progressive prostate cancer have a poorer prognosis. Therefore, a sensitive and specific screening test to detect prostate cancer in its early states is urgently needed.

Currently, serum prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels and digital rectal examinations have been used as the screening and diagnostic tools for prostate cancer. However, researchers believe that a simple, non-invasive technique using urine (acting as a “liquid biopsy”) can be a more sensitive and specific way to detect the early stages of the disease. Urine contains more than two thousand different metabolites and can provide clues to the human body’s metabolism, including the disordered metabolism of cancer cells. As such, there is potential for a new urine test for prostate cancer to pick up on these specific metabolites to guide diagnosis.

Researchers in the United States have taken the opportunity to develop a new urine test for prostate cancer based on the metabolite profile and RNA sequencing found in prostate cancer-specific urine. Their findings are described in Scientific Reports. Not only did their study aim to discover prostate cancer-specific biomarkers, but it also aimed to discover potential new prostate cancer treatment targets. The researchers took an approach that only required one single pass of urine, without the need for prostatic massage prior, to prove their principle that a simple urine sample could be sufficient for the identification of prostate cancer biomarkers.

Metabolic profiles of patients without cancer were taken and compared with metabolic profiles of patients with prostate cancer to identify metabolic changes and prostate cancer-specific biomarkers. The findings are the first to report a distinct prostate cancer profile from altered metabolic pathways in patient urine samples that can be differentiated between patients with normal prostates and benign prostatic hyperplasia (benign enlargement of the prostate). These altered metabolic pathways identified in prostate cancer patients could also be potential targets for drug therapy and would require further exploration in future research.

The researchers conclude that their findings are a significant discovery to developing a new urine test for prostate cancer that is simple, non-invasive and convenient. The study’s proof-of-concept should be further tested and validated in larger sample sizes before it can be clinically implemented.

Written by Maggie Leung, PharmD.


Lee, B., Mahmud, I., Marchica, J., Dereziński, P., Qi, F., Wang, F., … Perera, R. J. (2019). Integrated RNA and metabolite profiling of urine liquid biopsies for prostate cancer biomarker discovery. Scientific Reports. doi: 10.1101/599514

HopkinsMedicine. (2019, February 28). Researchers announce progress in developing an accurate, noninvasive urine test for prostate cancer. Retrieved from

Image by Belova59 from Pixabay 

Maggie Leung PharmD
Maggie Leung PharmD
Maggie is a registered pharmacist and has a PharmD from the University of Toronto. She currently works in the pharmacy informatics field as a clinician applications consultant. In her role, she supports the integration and optimization of technology in healthcare. She enjoys learning about the latest in scientific research and sharing that knowledge through her writing for Medical News Bulletin. Maggie is a big dog lover and enjoys traveling and spending time with her friends and family.


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