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Portable Prostate Cancer Screening Test May Help Reach Underserved Patients


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A portable, rapid prostate cancer screening kit could provide early warning to populations with a higher incidence of prostate cancer and may particularly aid those with limited access to health care. The proof-of-concept test, described by Srinivasan et al in Current Research in Biotechnology, is inexpensive and uses a test strip and a small cube-shaped 1.6-inch reader to quantify prostate-specific antigen (PSA) from a drop of blood in minutes.

“We’ll be able to take a drop of blood in a community setting… and be able to deliver results in 10 to 15 minutes right there, which can indicate when somebody needs to come in for further tests,” said Saurabh Mehta, ScD, the Janet and Gordon Lankton Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology and the paper’s senior author. “It’s creating that first point of contact that hopefully builds rapport and brings health-care services to the people at the point of need."

Balaji Srinivasan, PhD, a research associate in Dr. Mehta’s research group, is the paper’s first author.

More on the Kit

The kit comes with a test strip, similar to those found in at-home COVID-19 antigen or pregnancy tests. Users would draw a drop of blood and apply it to the test strip, and in about 15 minutes, two lines appear on the strip.

The color of the two lines is due to 150-nm gold nanoshells, which greatly enhance the test’s sensitivity to detect PSA and make the lines appear more intense in their presence, Dr. Srinivasan said. While a COVID or pregnancy test gives a positive or negative result, the cube reader senses the intensity of the test strip lines and then calculates and displays a measurement of PSA concentration in the blood.

We’ll be able to take a drop of blood in a community setting… and be able to deliver results in 10 to 15 minutes right there, which can indicate when somebody needs to come in for further tests. It’s creating that first point of contact that hopefully builds rapport and brings health-care services to the people at the point of need.
— Saurabh Mehta, ScD

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“Another advantage of test strips is that the technology to make them really cheap or mass-produce them has been around for many years,” Dr. Srinivasan said.

While a different PSA test kit developed by a private company has been approved by the FDA, it works by putting a blood sample into a microfluidic channel and has a larger bench-top analyzer, making it less portable and more expensive to own and operate.

Utilization in Underserved Populations

Black men frequently do not have access to prostate cancer PSA screening and are often diagnosed with more advanced prostate cancer, contributing to disproportionately higher mortality rates. PSA testing frequency has declined among all U.S. ethnic and racial groups over the last decade, with the rate of decline being steeper for Black men, particularly those between 40 and 54 years old. Close to 43% of Black men aged 41 years and older have never had a PSA test, according to previous research.

“There is a need for increasing access to PSA screening among Black men who are otherwise not able to get tested periodically, and one of the ways is we take the test to them at various community settings,” Dr. Srinivasan said.

The team also recently received a notice of award from the Department of Defense to further develop this area of research and test the device in certain underserved neighborhoods in New York.

The study authors concluded, “The highly portable quantitative screening test for PSA described in this study has the potential to make prostate cancer screening more accessible where diagnostic labs and automated immunoassay systems are not available, to reduce therapeutic turnaround time, to streamline clinical care, and to direct patient care for both initial screening and for post-treatment monitoring of patients.”

Disclosure: The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. For full disclosures of the study authors, visit sciencedirect.com.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.
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