New Prostate Cancer Test Shows Greater Accuracy

He says the ECPA-2 test is 89 percent accurate at telling the difference between cancers that are confined to the prostate and those that have spread to other parts of the body -- an important distinction when it comes to deciding on aggressive treatment.

However, other urologists say it is too early to draw any conclusions about if and when the test will gain widespread acceptance.

Dr. Leonard G. Gomella, chairman of urology at Jefferson Medical College, said data is too limited to make promises to those who could benefit from the test.

"Lots of patients will want it long before it is even available experimentally," he said.

Other experts agree that hanging too much hope on the new test too soon could lead to disappointment for doctors and patients alike.

"If asked by a patient for a EPCA-2, I would need to respond that it is currently commercially unavailable and still experimental, although quite promising," said Dr. Richard E. Greenberg, chief of urologic oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

"The preliminary data is encouraging but, again, we should not jump to conclusions about expanding into clinical practice until the test has been properly validated," said Dr. Ralph Hauke, associate professor of medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Hauke said that until the test has proven itself through additional research and eventual clinical practice, it is unlikely to completely replace the PSA test. Instead, he said, the test will likely first be used as a supplement to help doctors weed out false positives -- ensuring that only those men who need biopsies get them.

According to Getzenberg, such an application could be an ideal entrance for the EPCA-2 test into clinical practice.

"We want to use it this way for a while before we make any claims that it could replace PSA," he said.

FDA Approval Yet to Come

Approval of the test by the Food and Drug Administration -- a crucial step before it is incorporated into practice -- will entail more time for further study.

The company seeking FDA approval to market the test said it will take at least a year or two before the test becomes commercially available.

If there is any good news for men now, however, it is that other teams of researchers are currently devising a number of other tests based on other possible markers for prostate cancer.

"This is one of several tests to show promise," said Dr. Anthony Smith, professor and chief of urology at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. "All of them have the potential to alter practice."

And Getzenberg said he is optimistic that clinical applications of the ECPA-2 test could be on the horizon.

"We're hoping that in the next 10 months to two years, this will be FDA-approved and we can get it out there," he said.

"There are a lot of men out there who are really very desperate for this kind of help to guide their decision making. I hope we can make this available soon."

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