Hong Kong Baptist UniversityTransforming the diagnosis of prostate cancer

Transforming the diagnosis of prostate cancer

Professor Gary Wong (middle) jointly developed the Spermine Risk Score with Professor Ng Chi-fai (right) and Dr Peter Chiu (left), Professor and Associate Professor respectively of the Division of Urology in the Department of Surgery at CU Medicine.


Researchers from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) and the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CU Medicine) have jointly developed a new method, named the Spermine Risk Score, that provides a non-invasive and more reliable approach for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

The use of the Spermine Risk Score could also help to reduce the number of unnecessary prostate biopsies that take place, as a study conducted by the team revealed that around 37% of participating patients, who were ultimately found to have no prostate cancer, could have avoided undergoing a prostate biopsy procedure based on their scores. The findings were published in the scientific journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases.

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide. It results from the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of the prostate gland. Two medical procedures are commonly used for its diagnosis, namely the digital rectal examination (DRE) and the serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, but there are issues with both.

In search of a more reliable and non-invasive method for prostate cancer diagnosis, Professor Gary Wong Ka-leung, Professor and Head of the Department of Chemistry at HKBU, worked with colleagues in the Department of Surgery at CU Medicine to identify a new biomarker to supplement the PSA test. They found that prostate cancer patients in general have lower levels of spermine, a biogenic molecule in their urine, which offers a clue for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

To further investigate the diagnostic performance of spermine, the research team recruited 905 patients between 2015 and 2019 to participate in a study. All of them had elevated PSA levels and/or abnormal DRE, with a prostate biopsy scheduled.

When they analysed the results of the study, the researchers found that urine spermine and the Spermine Risk Score can be used effectively to identify men at higher risk of prostate cancer. The widespread adoption of the test could also help reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies that take place, as based on Spermine Risk Scores calculated with data collected from the study, around 37% of the non-cancer patients could have avoided the biopsy procedure.

“This is the first prospective study to investigate the efficacy of urine spermine in prostate cancer detection. It successfully demonstrated that the Spermine Risk Score, developed based on patients’ urine spermine levels and other clinical parameters, can serve as a novel and promising approach to address the limitations of the diagnostic methods currently in use,” said Professor Wong.

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