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A protein found in urine could lead to a "powerful" new test for prostate cancer.
The protein, called MSMB, is present at reduced levels in men diagnosed with the disease.
Levels also appear to be affected by tumour aggressiveness.
The discovery could pave the way to the first useful urine test for prostate cancer. Currently doctors rely on blood tests for prostate specific antigen (PSA) to assess the risk and progress of the disease.
MSMB level is affected by a genetic change linked to prostate cancer.
The research is published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Study leader Dr Hayley Whitaker, from Cancer Research UK charity`s Cambridge Research Institute, said: "We looked in tissue and urine from over 350 men with and without prostate cancer to find out how much MSMB they had. We then looked to see who had the genetic change. It was really exciting to find out that the genetic change and the amount of protein were linked. The protein is easy to detect because it is found in urine and would potentially be a very simple test to carry out on men to identify those most at risk of developing the disease."
Each year around 35,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and some 10,000 die from the disease.
Dr Kate Holmes, research manager at The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "These preliminary results show that MSMB, a protein produced by the prostate gland, is found at significantly lower levels in the urine of men diagnosed with prostate cancer than those without the disease. The study also found that men with an aggressive tumour were also likely to have lower levels of the protein in their urine.
"The study suggests that measuring levels of this protein could potentially be a powerful way to predict how likely a man is to develop prostate cancer. However, further research on a much larger scale is needed to determine how effective the detection of MSMB in the urine is for predicting the risk of, and potentially even diagnosing, prostate cancer."
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