A new blood test for prostate cancer is producing a 99% accuracy rating—precision that has never before been achieved for a blood test of this particular kind of cancer.

Furthermore, the test can determine the exact stage and progression of the cancer, which also reduces the need for invasive biopsies and scans.

The team behind the breakthrough, involving researchers from Nottingham Trent University and University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust, determined that changes in the patient’s immune system could be examined through blood markers—specifically white blood cells.

By developing a series of sophisticated computational tools for analyzing the samples, the team can now determine the presence and stage of the cancer at unparalleled rates of accuracy.

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“Our approach not only identifies presence of the disease, but also—crucially—its clinical significance. We can also do this with higher accuracy than current approaches,” said Professor Graham Pockley, Director of Nottingham Trent University’s John van Geest Cancer Research Center

“This will spare men from having unnecessary invasive procedures and help clinicians to decide whether to ‘watch’ or ‘actively manage’ patients, even when they are asymptomatic.”

With an estimated 1.8 million new cases in 2018 alone, prostate cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world and the second most common form among men in the United States—a country that sees almost 200,000 diagnoses every year. It is the most common form of cancer for men in the UK with roughly 47,000 diagnoses annually.

Photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter / US Air Force

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The cancer can be treated successfully in its early stages, but is difficult to detect. The standard blood marker, unusual levels of a protein called PSA, will appear normal in 15% of people who have the disease, and so is not a reliable indicator.

This new test will not only save lives, but save millions of dollars in treatment and patient care, stemming from catching the cancer in early stages and reductions in the numbers of more expensive, invasive procedures.

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