A portable and rapid prostate cancer test kit could deliver an early warning to populations with a higher incidence of prostate cancer and particularly those with limited healthcare access, such as African American men.
The proof-of-concept prostate cancer test is inexpensive and uses a test strip and a small cube-shaped 1.6-inch reader to quantify a marker of prostate cancer, called prostate-specific antigen (PSA) – from a drop of blood in minutes.
The research was published in the journal of Current Research in Biotechnology.
Prostate cancer test delivers rapid results
“We’ll be able to take a drop of blood in a community setting such as a barbershop 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 Dr Saurabh Mehta, the Janet and Gordon Lankton Professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences and the paper’s senior author. Balaji Srinivasan, a research associate in Mehta’s research group, is the paper’s first 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,” Mehta said.
The prostate cancer test 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 two lines become visible on the strip within around 15 minutes.
The colour of the two lines is due to 150-nanometer gold nanoshells, enhancing the tests sensitivity to detect PSA’s and making lines appear more intense in their presence. The cube reader senses the intensity of the test strip lines and then calculates and displays a measurement of PSA concentration in the blood.
“Another advantage of test strips is that the technology to make them really cheap or mass produce them has been around for many years,” Srinivasan said. He estimates that PSA test kits may be mass-produced and sold for a few dollars each.
A different PSA test kit, developed by a private company, has been approved by the FDA and works by putting a blood sample into a microfluidic channel and has a larger bench-top analyser, making it less portable and more expensive to own and operate.
Accessibility for declining ethnic and racial groups in the US
African American men frequently do not have access to prostate cancer PSA screening and are diagnosed with more advanced prostate cancer, contributing to disproportionately higher mortality rates. The uptake of prostate cancer test frequency has declined amongst all US ethnic and racial groups over the last decade. The rate of decline is steeper for African American men, particularly those between 40 and 54 years old. One study found that approximately 43% of African American men aged 41 and older had never had a PSA test.
“There is a need for increasing access to PSA screening among African American 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,” Srinivasan said.