At present, the most common aid to early detection of prostate cancer is the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test.
But studies clearly show that the resulting treatments cause more harm than good in a disturbingly high ratio of cases, with side effects such as sexual impotence, urinary incontinence and bowel problems all too regularly cited.
Even the peak body, the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, admits on its website that the invasive biopsy impacts resulting from PSA testing may outweigh the benefits, particularly for men aged 70 and older.
“Evidence shows that for men in Australia who have PSA testing every two years from 50 to 69 years of age, more men will experience over-diagnosis than will avoid dying from prostate cancer or being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer,” it writes.
It’s a frustrating dilemma, particularly when you consider the sobering number of Australian men affected.
One in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer by the age of 85, with more than 3,300 men dying each year. It’s the second largest cause of cancer death in Australian men after lung cancer, and the second most common cancer diagnosed in Australians overall.
That’s why researchers at the Melbourne-based National Institute of Integrative Medicine (NIIM) are so excited about a breakthough alternative to PSA testing.
Its research published in the open access journal Frontiers in Oncology has revealed that the ISET-Circulating Tumour Cells (CTC) Test offers a radical detection improvement – a 97%-99% success rate, as opposed to the PSA standard of 15.5%-25%.
“This new non-invasive test allows for early detection of prostate cancer more accurately than the standard PSA blood test. Improving the accuracy of early testing may also help reduce the burden of unnecessary biopsies, and can facilitate earlier intervention,” said NIIM Director of Research and Chief Investigator, Associate Professor Karin Ried.
NIIM now wants to take its research findings a step closer to having the CTC testing made mainstream by launching a population study.
The institute has put out the call for 500 males, aged 50-75, to participate in the research to further evaluate the clinical benefits.
The initial test takes just 5-10 minutes and can be done by visiting the NIIM clinic in Melbourne in person, or by arranging to have a test kit sent to you, or your doctor.
Professor Ried said approved participants will be asked to make a small donation of around $250 – the test would normally be closer to $1000 – to help defray the operational costs of the not-for-profit.
She added that it was exciting to see the longer-term benefits of this type of testing to detect a wider range of cancers in the body.
But NIIM had decided to focus on prostate cancer with its initial research because of the potential to save so many lives, and to improve the quality of life of those impacted.
“A lot of patients at the moment would be told, ‘oh, prostate cancer doesn’t kill you straight away so we’ll take a ‘wait-and-see approach’,” said Professor Ried.
“Woudn’t it be much better to see what the status and risk is over time and monitor it, and if the CTCs go up, you do something?
“We know from our research that you can reduce CTCs by lifestyle changes, by changing the environment which influences the immune system, which then in turn will get rid of the CTCs. If you do that early, your immune system has a chance.”
NIIM’s ISET-CTC test is the only blood test of its kind available to patients in Australia.
To find out more about the criteria and participating in NIIM’s population study for the ISET-CTC Test for prostate cancer, click here.
“This next phase is important as we hope to provide treating oncologists and medical practitioners with more data to improve certainty over treatment and recovery,” added NIIM Director Professor Avni Sali AM.