If you missed Melinda Beck’s piece in the May 10 issue of the Wall St. Journal, you can read it here.
The article describes the new generation of tests for the disease that have been formulated to separate the aggressive tumors and strains of the disease from the slow-growing ones that are not life-threatening.
With both primary care physicians and urologists alike more aware than ever of “doing no harm” in addressing a disease where the diagnosis and the treatment is often invasive and out of proportion to the threat posed by the cancer. For example, of the over 1 million painful biopsies men undergo each year to detect prostate cancer, fewer than 20% are positive. And 25% of these tests result in false negatives.
Options like OPKO’s 4Kscore Test function as a sort of PSA-on-steroids test, analyzing four PSA-related variables to produce a percentage between 1% and 100% that a cancer is aggressive (defined as a Gleason 7 or above). Developed at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, OPKO claims that the 4Kscore Test will reduce biopsies by 60%.
Another PSA-based test, the Prostate Health Index (PHI) from Beckman Coulter, Inc., costs only $100 and also calculates not only the chances a biopsy would find cancer but also the likelihood that the cancer will be aggressive and require treatment.
The bottom line – as the quality and sophistication of testing moves past the basic PSA test, more patients will be able to take advantage of treatment plans based on specific data yielded by the testing. The most serious cases will be distinguished from non-life-threatening ones and treated accordingly. This can only be good news for those of us who want to see lives saves by early detection and quality of life preserved by limiting invasive and aggressive treatment plans to only the most aggressive cases of the disease.