Researchers Announce Progress in Developing an Accurate, Noninvasive Urine Test For Prostate Cancer


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Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have made significant progress toward development of a simple, noninvasive liquid biopsy test that detects prostate cancer from RNA and other specific metabolic chemicals in the urine.

A description of their findings appears in the Feb. 28 issue of the journal  Scientific Reports.

The investigators emphasize that this is a proof-of-principle study for the urine test, and it must be validated in additional, larger studies before it is ready for clinical use.

The researchers used RNA deep-sequencing and mass spectrometry to identify a previously unknown profile of RNAs and dietary byproducts, known as metabolites, among 126 patients and healthy, normal people. The cohort included 64 patients with prostate cancer, 31 with benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostatitis diseases, and 31 healthy people with none of these conditions. RNA alone was not sufficient to positively identify the cancer, but addition of a group of disease-specific metabolites provided separation of cancer from other diseases and healthy people.

“A simple and noninvasive urine test for prostate cancer would be a significant step forward in diagnosis. Tissue biopsies are invasive and notoriously difficult because they often miss cancer cells, and existing tests, such as PSA (prostate-specific antigen) elevation, are not very helpful in identifying cancer,” says Ranjan Perera, Ph.D., the study’s senior author. Perera is also the director of the Center for RNA Biology at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute and the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Institute for Fundamental Biomedical Research, and an associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center member.

“We discovered cancer-specific changes in urinary RNAs and metabolites that — if confirmed in a larger, separate group of patients — will allow us to develop a urinary test for prostate cancer in the future,” says Bongyong Lee, Ph.D., the study’s first author and a senior scientist at the Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute.

Perera and Lee are available for media interviews about the study. For more information or to schedule an interview, contact the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center Office of Public Affairs at 410-955-1287, [email protected] or [email protected].

In addition to Perera, Lee and other Johns Hopkins investigators, the study was performed with  collaborators at AdventHealth, the University of Florida, the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Shanghai Second Medical Institute. 

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant NCI 5P30CA030199 (SBP), P30 CA006973 (JHU SKCCC), the Florida Department of Health, Bankhead-Coley Cancer Research Program 5BC08 and the International Prostate Cancer Foundation, Southeast Center for Integrated Metabolomics-NIH grant #U24 DK097209.