A Better Way to Measure the Severity of Prostate Cancer?

Jun 29, 2016

A University of Toronto researcher has found that the key to understanding the severity of prostate cancer may be in the urine.

Professor Thomas KislingerProfessor Thomas Kislinger

Professor Thomas Kislinger, of the Department of Medical Biophysics, and his co-authors have made a major advance in the quest to develop a precise, non-invasive method of identifying which tumors are severe enough to require urgent and aggressive treatment.

Overtreating prostate cancer is a worldwide problem because many of these cancers are slow growing, and may never require treatment, says Kislinger, who is also Senior Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network.

“We believe we have found a better way that allows us to predict which patients have a slow-growing versus aggressive prostate cancer using non-invasive biomarkers,” he says. “This could eventually help us personalize cancer treatment for these patients.”

The research was published online June 29 in Nature Communications. Kislinger discusses details at https://youtu.be/dj6LBuXYyoo.

Currently, needle biopsies are used to help diagnose prostate cancer. But this technique may not detect hidden tumors, or cancer that has already spread beyond the organ, according the authors.

The Kislinger team, along with Canadian and American collaborators, used urine samples containing prostatic secretions from 210 patients.

The research took four years and involved samples from 300 patients, says Kislinger, who specializes in proteomics – the study of the structure and function of proteins involved in the development of cancer. 

“We used targeted proteomics to accurately quantify hundreds of proteins in urine samples to identify liquid biopsy signatures. The first round of research involved 80 patients and quantified 150 proteins that were then narrowed down to 34 for further investigation. The next round involved a second, independent cohort of 210 patients,” he says.

“Applying computational biology, we used the quantitative data from mass spectrometry to develop the fluid biomarkers for aggressive prostate cancer.”  

Next, the team intends to study urine samples from 1,000 international patients to determine whether the biomarkers identified have broader clinical utilities in prostate cancer.

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