Prostate cancer biomarkers identified in seminal fluid

June 6, 2014 by David Ellis
Micrograph showing prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma (the most common form of prostate cancer) Credit: Wikipedia

(Medical Xpress)—Improved diagnosis and management of one of the most common cancers in men - prostate cancer - could result from research at the University of Adelaide, which has discovered that seminal fluid (semen) contains biomarkers for the disease.

Results of a study now published in the journal Endocrine-Related Cancer have shown that the presence of certain molecules in seminal fluid indicates not only whether a man has , but also the severity of the cancer.

Speaking in the lead-up to Men's Health Week (9-15 June), University of Adelaide research fellow and lead author Dr Luke Selth says the commonly used PSA () test is by itself not ideal to test for the cancer.

"While the PSA test is very sensitive, it is not highly specific for prostate cancer," Dr Selth says. "This results in many unnecessary biopsies of non-malignant disease. More problematically, PSA testing has resulted in substantial over-diagnosis and over-treament of slow growing, non-lethal prostate cancers that could have been safely left alone.

"Biomarkers that can accurately detect prostate cancer at an early stage and identify aggressive tumours are urgently needed to improve patient care. Identification of such biomarkers is a major focus of our research," he says.

Dr Selth, a Young Investigator of the Prostate Cancer Foundation (USA), is a member of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health at the University of Adelaide and is based in the University's Dame Roma Mitchell Cancer Research Laboratories.

Using samples from 60 men, Dr Selth and colleagues discovered a number of small ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules called microRNAs in that are known to be increased in prostate tumours. The study showed that some of these microRNAs were surprisingly accurate in detecting cancer.

"The presence of these microRNAs enabled us to more accurately discriminate between patients who had cancer and those who didn't, compared with a standard PSA test," Dr Selth says. "We also found that the one specific microRNA, miR-200b, could distinguish between men with low grade and higher grade tumours. This is important because, as a potential prognostic tool, it will help to indicate the urgency and type of treatment required."

This research builds on previous work by Dr Selth's team, published in the British Journal of Cancer, which demonstrated that microRNAs in the blood can predict men who are likely to relapse after surgical removal of their prostate cancer. "We are excited by the potential clinical application of microRNAs in a range of body fluids," he says.

The research team is now expanding on these studies using larger patient groups to validate their findings.

Explore further: New early detection test for prostate cancer: Mi-Prostate Score test improves on PSA for predicting cancer

More information: Luke A. Selth, Matthew J. Roberts, Clement W.k. Chow, Villis R. Marshall, Suhail A.r. Doi, Andrew D. Vincent, Lisa M Butler, Martin F. Lavin, Wayne D Tilley, and Frank Gardiner." Human seminal fluid as a source of prostate cancer specific microRNA biomarkers." Endocr Relat Cancer ERC-14-0234, DOI: 10.1530/ERC-14-0234 first published on 23 May 2014

L A Selth, S L Townley, A G Bert, P D Stricker, P D Sutherland, L G Horvath, G J Goodall, L M Butler, W D Tilley. "Circulating microRNAs predict biochemical recurrence in prostate cancer patients." British Journal of Cancer 109, 641-650 (6 August 2013), DOI: 10.1038/bjc.2013.369

Related Stories

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

April 18, 2014

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...

Prostate cancer testing is on trial

June 3, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—The University of Sydney's School of Public Health is seeking people to participate in a "community jury" to independently asses the process of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) testing in Australia.

Recommended for you

Combination therapy can prevent cytostatic resistance

November 26, 2015

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have found a new way of preventing resistance to cytostatics used in the treatment of cancers such as medulloblastoma, the most common form of malignant brain tumour in children. The promising ...

Forecasting the path of breast cancer in a patient

November 23, 2015

USC researchers have developed a mathematical model to forecast metastatic breast cancer survival rates using techniques usually reserved for weather prediction, financial forecasting and surfing the Web.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.