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Could A Urine Test Replace Mammography?

May 27, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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A researcher at Missouri University of Science and Technology thinks a urine test might detect breast cancer before it would show up on a mammogram.

In April, Yinfa Ma, PhD, began a clinical trial of his technique at Mercy Breast Center-Chub O’Reilly Cancer Center in Springfield, Missouri. Dr. Ma is curator’s teaching professor of chemistry at Missouri S&T, which is in Rolla. He said future breast cancer testing could work this way:

A patient donates urine, and 10 minutes later I have a result. If this works, it will be an amazing diagnostic tool.

Dr. Ma was quoted in a university news release via Newswise.

Of course, “if it works” is a big “if.” The urine test will measure concentrations of metabolites called pteridines. “Cancer cells grow much faster than normal cells,” Dr. Ma said. “So they release more waste into the urine, and we begin to see a rise in the metabolite levels.”

Dr. Ma believes pteridine levels continue to rise as the cancer advances. That would mean they could indicate not only the presence of cancer but also the stage to which it has advanced.

“Mammogram technology is not sensitive,” Dr. Ma said. “Some early cancer cannot be detected by a mammogram. If this P-scan technology works, it will be much easier to incorporate into regular physical screening.”

The blind study at Mercy involves 300 breast cancer patients and a control group of 100 cancer-free individuals. It is scheduled to be completed within a year.

Then would come further testing to see whether pteridine screening could detect other cancers as well. Dr. Ma said he thinks specific cancers have specific pteridine profiles. “We will go cancer by cancer until we know,” he said.

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Too many Texas women are having expensive, invasive surgical biopsies instead of minimally invasive needle biopsies, a University of Texas Medical Branch study finds. For details, see our Facebook page.

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