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Case Studies

New urine test for prostate cancer

The Norwich Research Park Biorepository has provided essential support to the development of a new urine test for prostate cancer.

The Urology department at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the University of East Anglia (UEA) have developed the Prostate Urine Risk (PUR) test.

The test examines proteins and fragments of DNA and RNA found in tiny membranous spheres called microvesicles. The prostate releases these microvesicles continually. The contents of the microvesicles vary depending on the health of the prostate cells making them.

In 2019 Professor Colin Cooper’s team at UEA in conjunction with Rob Mills at the NNUH published 9 years of research into the PUR test.

Part of the study was on men with low level prostate cancer that does not require treatment. These men are on a care pathway called Active Surveillance. This assesses if their cancer remains low level or will progress to a form needing treatment.

The PUR test used urine samples from these men. The Biorepository was responsible for receiving, cataloguing and storing the samples. After five years, the researchers compared the PUR result with the cancer progression. A single urine sample could be used to separate men on Active Surveillance into those whose prostate cancer was highly likely to progress and require treatment, and those in which it was not likely. There is nothing currently in the clinic that can do this, and Prof Cooper’s team are now developing the PUR test for use in the clinic.

The hope is that the PUR test will mean many men will avoid having to have an initial biopsy or more invasive follow-up tests during Active Surveillance.

The At-Home collection of Urine from patients

The Biorepository was part of a successful trial where UEA and NNUH researchers showed that the PUR test could be performed on samples collected at home.

Men received an “At-Home Collection Kit” to collect samples from their first wee of the day. They then sent this back to the Biorepository, where we collect and catalogue the sample.

Professor Cooper’s Cancer Genetics team at UEA then analysed the urine and determined the health of the prostate.

In the trial, the home urine test showed the biomarkers for prostate much more clearly than from a rectal examination. The prostate is constantly secreting the microvesicles during sleep. This means the first urine collection contains these markers of prostate health at higher, but consistent levels.

This is the first time that an At-Home collection anywhere in the world.