The Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding) in collaboration with Alpe d’HuZes has awarded a unique grant of more than 2 million euros for ground-breaking research in prostate cancer. A team consisting of members from 4 universities are jointly analyzing unique protein and RNA markers in urine to discover the presence and aggressiveness of the disease. In recent years it has become clear that prostate cancer cells secrete small vesicles (also known as exosomes) in the urine. These vesicles are filled with proteins and RNA originating from the cancer cells. The defects of the cancer cell can thus be observed and measured in these secreted vesicles. This makes urine a very important source of cancer markers for the diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.

The vesicles (black dots on the left) secreted from prostate cancer cells, viewed by an electron microscope. A single vesicle has a diameter of about 120 nanometers; 500 times thinner than a human hair. Each vesicle is filled with fluid, encapsulated by a membrane (brown ring on the right) and contains proteins and RNA (squiggles inside the vesicle on the right) originating from a cancer cell.

This remarkable finding resulted in the development of multiple tests to investigate the vesicles and their content. These tests measure:

keyboard_arrow_right The proteins on the outside of the vesicles
keyboard_arrow_right The RNA on the insie of the veiscles
keyboard_arrow_right The amount of vesicles present

The various tests have already given the first indication of their diagnostic and prognostic value. The unique aspects of the vesicles from prostate cancer cells is that we are now in a position to first isolate the vesicles from urine, and then measure the cancer markers at a more sensitive and accurate level. The aim of the study is to optimize and validate the new non-invasive urine test for the diagnosis and prognosis of prostate cancer.

Successful new urine tests can significantly help to reduce the tens of thousands of unnecessary biopsies and unnecessary diagnoses of insignificant tumors. Additionally, it will be possible to indicate whether the biopsies have missed the tumor, and whether the aggressiveness has been correctly determined. This will facilitate the therapy choice in an early stage and save a great deal of confusion and suffering.