The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), UK, has developed a blood test in partnership with Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust that could predict the outcome of certain targeted treatments for prostate cancer.
The test is designed to detect tumour DNA in the blood and identify the presence of numerous copies of the androgen receptor gene, which reportedly aids in cancer resistance to therapy.
Researchers evaluated blood samples from men with advanced prostate cancer in a study funded by Prostate Cancer UK, Cancer Research UK, the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden, and ICR.
The study involved a total of 265 patients who were receiving abiraterone or enzalutamide, which are considered standard treatments for the disease.
A trial with 171 patients was initially carried out, which found that men whose blood samples carried several copies of the gene are less likely to respond when treated with the drugs and are at four times more risk of death as compared to patients with low levels of the gene.
The results were then confirmed in a second trial involving 94 patients.
Researchers analysed patient samples from before the treatment, as well as after the disease had progressed.
The Royal Marsden consultant medical oncologist Dr Gerhardt Attard said: "Abiraterone and enzalutamide are excellent treatments and some men can take these drugs for years without seeing a return of their cancer.
"In other men, these drugs do not work well and the disease rapidly returns. Currently, there is no approved test to help doctors choose whether these are the best treatments for an individual.
"We have developed a robust test that can be used in the clinic to pick out which men with advanced prostate cancer are likely to respond to abiraterone and enzalutamide, and which men might need alternative treatments.
"Our method costs less than £50, is quick to provide results, and can be implemented in hospital laboratories across the NHS. We are now looking to assess our test in prospective clinical trials and hope it can become part of standard patient care."
The findings from the studies showed that the new test can detect the presence of multiple copies of the gene.
While it needs to be further assessed in clinical trials, it is expected to be used for personalising treatment for advanced prostate cancer patients.
Cancer Research UK science information manager Dr Emma Smith said: "Developing tests that help doctors predict how likely a treatment is to work will prevent patients from suffering unnecessary side effects that are unlikely to benefit them.
"If further studies confirm this test is reliable, it could also help doctors choose better options for men whose prostate cancer is unlikely to respond to standard treatments."
Image: ICR's new blood test to predict benefit from prostate cancer treatment. Photo: courtesy of the Institute of Cancer Research.