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Mar 24, 2017 09:19 AM EDT

WSU Researchers Find Non-Invasive Way To Diagnose Prostate Cancer

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Researchers at Washington State University have developed a non-invasive approach to detecting early signs of prostate cancer. The new method can also track the progression of the disease.

The scientists have created a filter-like device that isolates prostate cancer indicators from other cellular information in blood and urine, Phys.org reported. They did this by fitting a mat of tiny glass springs with biomarkers specially designed to attract the fatty droplets of proteins, called exosomes, and RNA that tumor cells shed into body fluids.

These droplets contain cellular information that scientists can analyze to figure out a cancer's molecular composition and how far it has progressed. This discovery could help doctors determine how cancer patients respond to different treatments without the need to perform invasive biopsies.

Clifford Berkman, WSU chemistry professor, led the design of the biomarkers. He said that the study could also help predict which types of drugs would be most effective in treating prostate cancer. It is expected that this technology can expand to other types of cancers and diseases.

Since prostate cancer remains in a human body for years before it can spread to other organs, it is important that doctors be able to track its progression and response to treatment for the long-term. Currently, a biopsy is the main method done to diagnose the disease. However, this can sometimes lead to bleeding or infection.

According to Science Daily, Grant Norton, professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said that doctors can use the device that they are putting together to measure the number of exosomes specifically from prostate cancer cells in a patient's urine sample. A treatment plan could be developed based on the amount of exosomes as well as the amount found on a follow-up urine sample to show the disease's response to treatment.

The Washington State University researchers hope that the new method can be applied to help patients diagnosed with other cancers and diseases. The device can be fitted with various types of biomarkers to attract cancer exosomes in urine, blood and other body fluids.

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