cfDNA from blood samples as a way to measure prostate cancer risk

According to a new article in the journal Clinical Chemistry, an international research team believes they have found a completely new way to test for risk of prostate cancer by measuring tumor-specific, cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in blood samples (serum and plasma).

The article by Schütz et al. (and additional commentary on the ScienceDaily web site) describes how DNA was extracted from the serum of 204 patients with prostate cancer (with various Gleason scores), from the surum of 207 “normal”, healthy, male controls, from the serum of 10 patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), and from the serum of another 10 patients with prostatitis.

After appropriate processing, the authors were able to isolate cfDNA from all patients and controls and use this cfDNA to differentiate between patients and the matched controls.

If we eliminate the technical gobbledygook, what the authors were able to show was that they could use cfDNA to:

  • Identify men with prostate cancer with a diagnostic accuracy of 83 percent compared to the “normal” controls.
  • Differentiate between men with prostate cancer and men with either BPH or prostatitis with an accuracy of 90 percent.

This certainly appears to be a major advance over the capabilities of the PSA test. Whether it will be possible to (a) replicate these data to confirm this finding and then (b) commercialize this test at a cost that would make it’s use clinically practical on a routine basis still needs to be explored. And of course this test would still not tell us, without additional information, which patients were necessarily in need of immediate treatment as opposed to active surveillance, but it might massively reduce the numbers of men needing to undergo prostate biopsies on an annual basis.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Mike,

    Have tried the second link yesterday and today without luck — not functioning.

    Take care,


  2. Jim: Sorry … Fixed.

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