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January 28, 2013
A local researcher has been named one of Prostate Cancer Canada (PCC)’s Rising Stars in Prostate Cancer Research. Dr. Hon Leong, a researcher at Western University and Lawson Health Research Institute, will receive $150,000 each year for three years, funded by the Movember Foundation.
This funding will support Dr. Leong’s research into a new, potentially more accurate prostate cancer screening tool. The traditional prostate cancer screening test measures the blood level of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA), a protein produced by cells in the prostate gland. A high PSA level can be an indicator of prostate cancer. However, it can also indicate other benign conditions, like inflammation or enlargement.
To differentiate between the two conditions, men with high PSA levels must undergo a prostate biopsy. This procedure can be painful, causing rectal bleeding, urinary tract infection, and other side effects. In many cases, the biopsy is unnecessary –75% of North American men with high PSA levels do not have prostate cancer according to their biopsy results. This leads to 165,000 unnecessary procedures, and 6,930 related hospitalizations, each year.
Dr. Leong’s research will evaluate the accuracy of a blood test measuring prostate cancer fragments. Through a prospective study, he and his colleagues will run blood tests to compare the levels of PSA and prostate cancer fragments in men preparing for biopsies. Based on the results, they hope to determine whether the fragment method can more accurately identify prostate cancer, and eliminate the need for unnecessary biopsies.
If the results are positive, this research has the potential to generate tremendous cost savings for the health care system, and provide improved health benefits to patients.
"This award is really important because it means that we’re doing something clinically relevant for all prostate cancer patients," Dr. Leong says.
The Rising Star program allows for research scientists in the first five years of their first academic or research appointment to work under the guidance of an experienced mentor, providing intensive career development in prostate cancer research.