Why do we rely so heavily on blood samples to tell us what’s happening in the prostate? Why not urine? Indeed, says scientist Jun Luo, Ph.D., “given that exfoliated cells and secretions from the prostate can be found in the urine, it represents an ideal source of biomarkers for localized prostate cancer.”
Luo, leading a team of investigators to explore novel possibilities of urine testing in prostate cancer, has developed an innovative procedure to microscopically identify prostate cells recovered from urine. Using multiplex in situ hybridization (a technique that allows scientists to find precise sequences of DNA or RNA), the team looked for prostate-specific RNA targets. They fluorescently labeled prostate cells and evaluated RNA sequences at the single-cell level, using a method developed by Brady research fellow Jillian Eskra, Ph.D. The results were as exciting as they had hoped: “Using this technique, it is possible to visualize malignant and benign prostate cells in urine specimens,” says Luo.
Once they had a test, Luo’s team worked with urologist Christian Pavlovich, M.D., to evaluate how well it worked, in urine collected from 98 patients. The test performed like a champ: “When we compared the results of the urine test with clinical and pathological findings,” Luo says, “we found that the majority of patients who tested positive for cancer had clinically significant disease.” Even better: “Positive detection also correlated with high-risk cancer features” detected in needle biopsy. “These preliminary results indicate the urine test is highly specific for detecting clinically significant prostate cancer, and holds promise as a tool for distinguishing men who harbor aggressive prostate cancer from those with indolent disease.”
This work was presented at the annual AUA meeting in May 2019. Results were published in the Journal of Urology, and a second journal publication is being prepared.