Prostate cancer
Globally, more than 1.4 million new prostate cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020. One key challenge: unlike breast cancer, which can now be diagnosed earlier in women, men are less likely to be diagnosed early for prostate cancer. Image Credit: Gulf News / Vijith Pulikkal

At a glance

  • Researchers have identified novel microorganisms found in urine linked to aggressive prostate cancer.
  • A new urine test reveals 5 types of bacteria, including 3 newly-discovered ones, that could lead to early diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.
  • Doctors are excited about the ‘medical revolution’.
  • Scientists do not yet know how people pick up the bacteria, or whether they are causing the disease.

There’s a new urine test for prostate cancer, the third most common type of cancer in the world. Doctors are excited about this potential ‘medical revolution’.

The technique could help tens of thousands of men — the disease is responsible for 250,000 deaths annually worldwide.

Globally, more than 1.4 million new prostate cancer cases were diagnosed in 2020. One key challenge: unlike breast cancer, which can now be diagnosed earlier in women, men are less likely to be diagnosed early for prostate cancer. Men are also more likely to die, and are likely to die younger.

New hope for patients

Now, there’s hope. Recently, researchers discovered five bacteria — three of which are new to science — linked to an aggressive form of prostate cancer, a development being hailed as a potential game changer in the fight against the affliction.

Prostate cancer is a cancer that occurs in the prostate, a small walnut-shaped gland in males that produces the seminal fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. It is one of the most common types of cancer.

  • Prostate cancer is the third most-common type of cancer in the UAE
  • Globally, the crude incidence rate was 36 per 100,000 males.
  • In India, the average annual cancer incidence rate for prostate cancer ranged 5.0-9.1 per 100,000/year.
  • In America, the rate were 110.4 for whites and 180.9 for blacks, according to the US National Institutes of Health data.
  • One man dies of prostate cancer every 45 minutes in the UK.

What’s the new prostate cancer test?

It uses a urine test and genetic analyses of prostate tissue. The technique was devised by researchers at the University of East Anglia, UK, could lead to early prevention and treatment of the deadliest form of the disease.

Three out of the five species of bacteria discovered in urine specimens of high-grade prostate cancer patients are new to science. The bacteria found include:

  • Anaerococcus
  • Peptoniphilus
  • Porphyromonas
  • Fenollaria
  • Fusobacterium

Two of the new bacteria species found by the team have been named after two of the study’s funders – Porphyromonas bobii, after The Bob Champion Cancer Trust, and Varibaculum prostatecancerukia, after Prostate Cancer UK. All of the bacteria like to grow without oxygen present, said researchers.

⦿ Rod Steward
⦿ Warren Buffet
⦿ Bob Dole
⦿ Robert De Niro
⦿ Ian McKellen
⦿ Roger Moore
⦿ John Kerry
⦿ Colin Powell
⦿ Ben Stiller

How is prostrate cancer diagnosed?

Currently, the most widely used test for prostate cancer is the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood check as well as a biopsy. However, they are not always able to predict which cancers will be harmful or cancer types that are aggressive.

PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, is a substance made by the prostate. A blood test called a PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA levels in the blood can be higher in men who have prostate cancer.

What’s new with the research?

Researchers published their work in the peer-reviewed European Urology Oncology journal after performing genetic analyses on 600 men with and without prostate cancer.

10 facts prostate cancer
Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal / Gulf News

They found that men who had one or more of the species in their urine, prostate or tumour tissue were 2.6 times more likely to see their early stage cancer progress to advanced disease than men who did not.

“This is an exciting discovery that has the potential to truly revolutionise treatment for men,” said Dr Hayley Luxton of Prostate Cancer UK, which co-funded the research, told the Guardian.

Why is this new test important?

UAE-based specialists are excited by this new development.

“The discovery of bacteria linked to prostate cancer tumorigenesis and cancer progression from low-grade to aggressive high-grade cancer is exciting,” said Dr Sathyanarayanan Manohar, Specialist Urologist, Aster Clinic, Discovery Gardens.

Dr Satyanarayanan
Image Credit: Gulf News / Vijith Pulikkal

“This new discovery can change our perception and treatment of prostate cancer. We can detect the new bacteria in urine using sophisticated molecular methods which can aid greatly in preventing the onset and progression of prostate cancers similar to how a 2-week course of antibiotics for H. Pylori revolutionised prevention of stomach cancer,” Dr Manohar added.

“If this linear association is proven, it can definitely decrease the incidence and progression of prostate cancer with antibiotics and save many lives.”

How will it help in the treatment of prostate cancer?

Prostate cancer’s link to bacteria gives a ray of hope for cancer treatment, said Dr Pranay Taori, Medical Oncology Specialist at Aster Hospitals in Dubai.

Dr Pranay Taori
Image Credit: Gulf News / Vijith Pulikkal

“Some 20 years back it was not known that cervical cancer can be associated with some virus. But now it’s a fact that some viral infections trigger cervical cancer or oral cancers,” said Dr Pranay Taori.

However, the Dubai-based oncologist said finding the right antibiotic and directing it towards the bacteria is a challenge.

Bacteria's role in other cancers
Bacterial infection is known to play a part in the development of other cancers — a bug called H. pylori can trigger stomach cancer, for example.

How will this test help prevent prostate cancer and save lives?

Prostate cancer is the most common form of the disease found in men in developed countries.

If the test can demonstrate that newly-identified bacteria can not only predict, but actually cause aggressive prostate cancer, doctors may for the first time actually be able to prevent prostate cancer occurring.

“This would be a huge breakthrough that could save thousands of lives each year,” said Prof Rosalind Eeles, a cancer geneticist at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Scientists say, however, that antibiotics don’t get into the prostate very well because of the blood-prostrate divide. An antibiotic that only kills certain bacteria needs to be found. If this challenge is met, this would in turn save thousands of lives every year.