Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Toronto have partnered to devise a new non-invasive diagnostic test for prostate cancer.

The team identified a urine biomarker for aggressive prostate cancer that is expected to aid in deciding an appropriate treatment plan for patients.

With existing screening tools, around 25% to 40% of patients with a clinically insignificant disease undergo unnecessary surgeries and radiotherapy treatments.

The researchers also added that 20% to 35% of men with prostate cancer do not receive enough therapy and often experience disease recurrence.

Commonly, needle biopsy is used to identify prostate cancer, an approach which is considered invasive and associated with a range of clinical risks.

A blood test is a less invasive method but is believed to yield inaccurate results in all cases.

Urine biomarkers are intended to allow non-invasive and accurate differentiation of slow growing tumours and potentially life-threatening cancers, in turn facilitating better treatment decisions.

To identify and develop these biomarkers, the research team used microRNA involved in prostate cancer development and progression, and also affecting treatment response in patients.

The researchers discovered seven stable RNAs and integrated them with machine-learning techniques to create a new biomarker.

UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine urology and human genetics professor Paul Boutros said: “We developed a three-stage experimental strategy that would maximize statistical and data science considerations to give us the best chance of finding a biomarker to predict prostate cancer aggressiveness.”

When assessed in a clinical study, the biomarker was able to identify high-risk individuals, accurately diagnosing 80% of aggressive cancers.

The accuracy of the new test was found to be comparable to that of tissue-based tests.