Scientists in Birmingham have developed a new technique to help predict the behaviour of prostate cancer, it was revealed today.
At present, tests involve biopsies, blood and urine tests but they are unable to pinpoint how aggressive the cancer is and whether it will progress.
The new method, devised by researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) at Birmingham University, could prevent thousands of men from having unnecessary "preventative" surgery.
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men. More than 30,000 cases a year are diagnosed in Britain, and a third of those die from the disease.
The ICR study, published on the British Journal of Cancer website today, refers to a process known as the Checkerboard Tissue Microarray (TMA) Method.
The test, which can be carried out on prostate cancer biopsies, looks for various genes associated with the disease including the E2F3 gene.
It will allow scientists to examine a mainly untapped resource of clinical specimens obtained at diagnosis, to identify clues as to the cancer's behaviour.
An overexpression of this gene, first identified by ICR scientists, is an indicator of how aggressive the cancer will be.
Scientists worked in partnership with experts and patients at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, in Chelsea.
Until now scientists have been unable to effectively measure this property, and "preventative" surgery can result in severe side-effects such as incontinence and impotence.
Professor Colin Cooper, the Grand Charity of Freemasons' Chair of Molecular Biology at ICR, said: "Eventually we hope to be able to distinguish the tigers - aggressive tumours requiring treatment - from the pussycats - nonaggressive tumours which can be monitored for many years without treatment.
"Ultimately this could prevent thousands of men from having to undergo radical surgery, which can have devastating effects on their day to day lives."
Prof Peter Rigby, ICR's chief executive, added: "This demonstrates the real progress we are making in the field of prostate cancer research.
"Since discovering the E2F3 gene as a marker of prostate cancer aggressiveness our research team has been committed to developing a test for the gene." n Scientists are hoping to discover how an ingredient used in curries has anti-cancer properties.
Cancer researchers at Swansea University's School of Medicine and the city's Morriston Hospital have found that a constituent of turmeric, used to add flavour to meals, can help to block a cancerpromoting protein.
Researchers from the school's Institute of Life Science investigated curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, for its ability to specifically block the protein NF-kappaB.
A group led by Professor John Baxter and Dr Gareth Jenkins obtained "promising data" showing that in cultured cancer cells, curcumin actively inhibits the activity of the NF-kappaB protein.
If the pilot study in patients shows similar results to the study using cultured cancer cells, it will indicate that curcumin supplementation may have beneficial anti-cancer effects in patients.
Scientists across the world have long suspected that some elements of Indian food may act as anti-cancer agents.
It follows observations that in India, there are much lower incidence rates of certain GI tract cancers, suggesting that a diet rich in spices such as turmeric, may play a protective role against some forms of GI tract cancer.