UCL develop new risk algorithm to improve prostate cancer screening

Researchers from University College London (UCL) have developed a risk algorithm aimed to improve screening for cancer.  

The algorithm estimates a person’s risk of developing prostate cancer based on age status and the levels of two prostate cancer markers: PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) and hK2 (Human Kalliknein Peptidase).  

Through comparing the blood samples of men who died from prostate cancer with men who never developed the disease, the algorithm is said to calculate the risk of the cancer developing.  

Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, said: “A key drawback of screening for prostate cancer using a PSA test alone is the higher risk of a false positive, which can lead to an unnecessary, invasive biopsy and the unnecessary treatment of a clinically insignificant cancer that would not have caused harm anyway. 

“Our study shows a different screening approach could reduce the number of false positives by three quarters. This would make screening for prostate cancer safer and more accurate, reducing overdiagnosis and overtreatment. 

“The next step is to test the feasibility of this approach in practice with a pilot project inviting healthy men for screening. If the project is successful, we believe this approach ought to be considered as part of a national screening programme for all men.” 

Professor Roger Kirby, President of the Royal Society of Medicine and Vice-President of Prostate Cancer UK, added: “This is a novel approach which utilises the levels of two prostate cancer markers, PSA and hK2 (human kallikrein peptidase) to refine prostate cancer screening. The use of PSA alone has significant drawbacks in terms of screening, but the addition of the hK2 marker in this context carries the genuine promise of significantly reducing the death rate from this most common cancer in men.”

To find out more, visit the UCL website here.