Survival rates in prostate cancer patients could be dramatically improved after researchers developed a new test to detect the disease earlier.
Researchers at Oxford Gene Technology (OGT) have identified a series of biological markers that distinguish between prostate cancer, benign prostate disease and healthy tissue in 90% of cases.
These protein "biomarkers" reveal the existence of antibodies that are created by the body in response to the development of prostate cancer, which kills 10,000 men in Britain every year.
OGT researchers identified these biomarker proteins when comparing blood samples from 73 patients with prostate cancer and 60 patients without. They are now testing the method with 1,700 patients.
The current Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test is less than 50% accurate, and often wrongly indicates patients have prostate cancer, with many sent for a biopsy and, in some cases, even prescribed a course of radiotherapy.
John Anson from OGT, said: "The appearance of auto-antibodies may precede disease symptoms by many years.
"This means that auto-antibody-based diagnostic tests can enable presymptomatic and early diagnosis of disease. Early diagnosis of cancer, especially aggressive forms, could significantly increase cure rates."