It is the most common type of cancer among men, with over 175,000 cases diagnosed in any given year. Ironically it will claim the lives of almost 40,000 men this year alone. Ironic because prostate cancer is one of the most detectable, and successfully treatable, forms of the disease, thanks to something known as PSA. Doctor Stephen B. Strum Director of the Prostate Cancer Research Institute explains. “PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen, it’s a protein, and we have technology called assays that detect these proteins we call biomarkers the levels or which are indicative conditions within the body such as tumors. PSA is the most valuable biomarker in the history of medicine for a common malignancy such as prostate cancer. By establishing a baseline PSA at the age of 40 and following it and seeing if there is a rate of change or an absolute increase in PSA that can give you a clue to the presence of a malignant process.”
As the “Baby Boom” generation ages, more and more men are entering the age group that should be concerned and tested for prostate cancer. In an effort to stem the tide of what could be an increase in prostate cancer cases, researchers with companies like DPC Diagnostics, are turning their efforts to improving the precision of the devices that are used to perform the PSA test. At facilities like New York’s Montifiore Medical Center a new assay has recently been introduced that has been shown to be as much as 10 times more sensitive to the presence of PSA in a patient’s blood. According to experts “The information that these assays provide allows for detection of disease states much earlier then previously available, in relative terms eight to twelve months earlier.” Any one who has suffered with or has had a relative suffer with the devastating blow of a diagnosis of cancer, knows what a difference a diagnosis of almost a year earlier could make.
The new assay is not only proving valuable in the early detection of new disease, but since it is so sensitive; it’s being used to effectively monitor postoperative patients to ensure they have remained disease free. Cancer survivor and prostatectomy patient Dennis Kloss says, “Now that I have already had a procedure and my PSA is low, now follow up after my surgery it’s absolutely crucial to get as much information as possible and that’s why I am a big proponent of using an ultra-sensitive machine. I know a lot, I wanted to have information and I’ve got it, I participate in my medical care so I would say on the whole I am comfortable and somewhat optimistic for sure, and that’s why I’m much in favor of and sought a physician who uses the hyper sensitive assay” Adds Doctor Strum “I believe sincerely that we should not be seeing any real significant mortality from prostate cancer today with the current tools that we have available. We are now changing the natural history of prostate cancer from what it was 10 or 15 years ago we’re not seeing patients presenting with bulky far advanced disease because of PSA.”
A tumor is like an invading army, slowly taking over more ground within the body. With the development of safer and more effective therapies, scientists are beginning to turn the tide in the battle. And while promising research may yet lead to a cure, early diagnosis and prevention remain our most powerful allies in the war on cancer.