The current test for Prostate Cancer is known to be unreliable, so researchers are using nanotech to make detection “much more accurate”.
According to charity Prostate Cancer UK the current PSA test, a blood test that measures the amount of prostate-specific antigens in the blood, can be inaccurate, which is concerning when nearly 12,000 men (and trans women who have a prostate) a year die from prostate cancer.
It can, according to the charity, give false readings and miss some cancer signs.
But Professor Paula Mendes’ research has identified over 50 forms of PSA, all with the same protein but with different sugars attached to it.
Importantly, different types of sugars are linked to different problems with the prostate, including cancer.
“The current test for prostate cancer scans the body for all types of PSAs, but we now know that only four of these forms of PSA are linked to prostate cancer,” she explains.
However nanoparticles can detect the right type of PSA.
According to Prostate Cancer UK, Mendes’ plan is to take advantage of this, and create a test where the type of PSA, rather than the amount, is detected. It uses tiny, coloured nanoparticles, which contain a ‘pocket’ that specifically binds the PSA sugars associated with prostate cancer, like a lock and key. The more such sugars it detects, the higher a man’s chance of having aggressive prostate cancer that needs urgent treatment.
“At the end of two years, we want to demonstrate that our technology can detect high- or low-risk prostate cancer with high accuracy,” says Professor Mendes.
She then hopes to run a larger clinical trial and ultimately make the test part of a future screening programme for prostate cancer.
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