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What is the role of the PCA3 biomarker in diagnosing prostate cancer?

In our study, we’ve been looking at PCA3 (prostate cancer gene 3) as a biomarker for prostate cancer. PSA3 can be is found in a urine sample that is taken after a digital rectal exam. It has been suggested that men who have higher PCA3 levels, including those who have had a negative biopsy, are more likely to have cancer. We have found significant variations in PCA3 in our study, so we can’t make individual decisions with it at this point, but research is ongoing and the PCA3 test shows promise.
Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
When prostate cells become cancerous, their prostate cancer genes 3 (PCA3 genes) kick into overdrive, producing massive amounts of this cancer-specific nucleic acid. If a doctor massages a cancerous prostate gland, cancerous cells that contain PCA3 are shed into the urine, where it can be detected with a sophisticated molecular test. PCA3 levels don't rise if a man has an inflamed or enlarged noncancerous prostate, so this protein more closely correlates with cancer than prostate-specific antigen (PSA) does. As a result, men with a PSA level that might normally warrant a biopsy could have a PCA3 test first. Those with a slightly elevated PSA level but a low PCA3 level could be spared a biopsy. Although the PCA3 test is becoming routinely available in Europe and several American laboratories offer it, the test has recently been approved by FDA in the United States.

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