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Study: First steps for aggressive prostate cancer test

One specific protein is responsible for whether prostate cancer turns out to be aggressive, researchers beleive. 

Far higher levels of the NAALADL2 protein were found in prostate cancer tissue compared to healthy tissue. 

And aggressive prostate cancer tumours had even higher levels of the protein, as did cancer cells that had spread around the body. 

The team from the University of Cambridge, who are working for Cancer Research UK, found that high levels of the protein could be used to determine patients who would need surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. 

Patients with lower levels of the protein were more likely to need monitoring rather than treatment. 

The study, published in Oncogene, concluded that NAALADL2 causes prostate cancer cells to behave more aggressively, making them more likely to move and invade healthy tissue surrounding the tumour.

Lead author, Dr Hayley Whitaker, Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Cambridge, said: “This is early research, but if clinical trials confirm our results then it could help clinicians to tell which patients have a more aggressive tumour and need proportionally aggressive treatment, while sparing patients with low grade tumours a unnecessary radiotherapy or surgery. 

“This is an important step along the path to developing a much-sought after test that could distinguish between different types of prostate cancer.”

Around 41,000 men per year are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK and around 10,700 men die from the disease annually.