A blood test for prostate cancer that can help detect more than 90 per cent of cases is to be rolled out later this year.
Although the disease affects one in six men during their lifetime there is currently no reliable blood test.
The current prostate-specific antigen test, which measures levels of a prostate cancer marker in the blood, only indicates the need for further investigations.
This can lead to unnecessary prostate biopsies in men with no cancer, and false reassurance in men who have the disease.
Researchers have developed a new blood test, Prostate Screening EpiSwitch, which can pick up signs of the cancer by identifying abnormalities in gene activity.
When used in combination with the PSA, it dramatically improves detection, picking up 94 per cent of cases.
Prostate cancer disproportionately affects black men, and the research team hope the new test will explain why, through identifying disease mar-kers specific to an ethnic group.
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The work was carried out by teams at Imperial College, the University of East Anglia and Oxford Biodynamics.
The PSE test will be launched into the private healthcare system in December. It is expected to be approved for the NHS following the results of trials carried out next year, to prove it saves lives and reduces unnecessary interventions. Actor and narrator Colin McFarlane, 62, welcomed the news but stressed that it is important to remain vigilant.
The Dark Knight star was diagnosed with low grade prostate cancer in December last year after he went for a routine check-up.
The father-of-three said: “I’m very excited about this potential test, which will be a game-changer. It is both cheap and scalable. However, until it is widely available I encourage men to get checked with the PSA, which at the moment is the only flag we’ve got.”
Dr Naomi Elster, from the charity Prostate Cancer Research which has been funding research into the new test, said: “What’s really exciting and game-changing about this test is not only that it could be more accurate than tests we use now, but that it’s a cheap PCR test, like a covid test, that should be easy to use.”
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