A newly-developed genetic screening test, currently being rolled out at the Center for Personalized Medicine at Northshore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Illinois, may help patients and their families evaluate their risk for prostate cancer prior to a diagnosis or the development of symptoms.
Not Quite an Ounce of Prevention, but It Can’t Hurt
A genetic screening is a far cry from preventative measures to ensure patients don’t develop a particular condition. Knowing you’re likely to develop a condition is cold comfort when there aren’t effective methods for treating that condition, after all. However, screening tests play an important role in both disease prevention and treatment.
The development of accurate tests to determine levels of risk for potentially life-threatening illnesses like cancer can provide valuable data to patients. Knowing you’re at a higher risk of prostate cancer, for example, can lead to closer monitoring of prostate health — the kind of monitoring that can lead to early detection and more comprehensive, and successful, treatment.
A Solid Partnership Bears Fruit
Created in conjunction with comprehensive testing company Ambry Genetics, the new AmbryScore test is a polygenic risk score that is the first of its kind to become commercially available. Both Ambry and Northshore announced their genetic testing partnership in 2017 before going to work on both this new prostate cancer screening test and others; in March of 2018, this relationship bore fruit in the creation of a related genetic screening for breast cancer.
The new screening test is genetic in nature, as it takes into account the links between what genetic markers seem to indicate a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. This test, which can easily be combined with other hereditary cancer risk tests currently on the market, examines a total of 72 single nucleotide polymorphisms that have been linked with the disease. Unfortunately, there is one downside to this test; a large proportion of these nucleotides are specific to certain types of genetic heritage, in particular those of Northern European ancestry. Thankfully, other research is being conducted for prostate cancer risk in other ethnicities such as African-Americans.