Detecting the Undetectable:

New Technology Could Define New PSA “Zero”

Categories: Winter 2009

(This summary is based upon information released from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. Prostatectomy patients of Dr. William J. Catalona were involved in the study and will be involved in future studies.)

Dr. Catalona with Dr. Brian Helfan at an AUA meeting where they introduced their research on 8q24. Helfan won the award for the best abstract of the conference.

Ateam of Northwestern University researchers, using an extremely sensitive tool based on nanotechnology, has detected previously undetectable levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in patients who have undergone radical prostatectomy.

“Now, we are testing the findings further with serum samples from my patients,” Dr. Catalona said. “The test is not available for use and will not be available until is it approved by the FDA, which will require more time, but it looks promising.”

This ability to easily and quickly detect very low levels of PSA may enable doctors to diagnose men with prostate cancer recurrence years earlier than is currently possible.

“We have defined a new zero for PSA,” said Chad A. Mirkin, George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “This level of sensitivity in detecting low concentrations of PSA will take the blinders off the medical community, especially when it comes to tracking residual disease.”

“This new PSA test may alter the management of patients who have been treated with surgery for prostate cancer,” Dr. Catalona said.

Studies have shown that postoperative radiation therapy given early to patients with adverse pathology, called adjuvant radiation, reduces the recurrence rate and improves survival,

“Because the ‘nano-PSA assay’ is more sensitive than the current commercially available PSA tests, it may allow physicians to target adjuvant radiation for patients destined to have a life-threatening tumor recurrence,” Dr. Catalona said.

Also, this new test could track PSA levels early to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments for recurrent cancer such as radiation, hormone and chemotherapies.

Quest will keep readers informed about the progress of this research.

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