Jefferson Receives Patent for New Blood Test to Improve Diagnosis of Prostate Cancer

September 1, 1996

Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia has received a patent for a molecular-based blood test that provides a novel approach to diagnosing prostate cancer. Jefferson has given exclusive licensing rights to the test to UroCor, Inc., for the United States and Canada, and to the Italian-based biotechnology firm Raggio-Italgene, for Europe and Japan.

Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia has received a patentfor a molecular-based blood test that provides a novel approachto diagnosing prostate cancer. Jefferson has given exclusive licensingrights to the test to UroCor, Inc., for the United States andCanada, and to the Italian-based biotechnology firm Raggio-Italgene,for Europe and Japan.

The new test is the result of research conducted at Jeffersondemonstrating that prostate cancer metastasis could be detectedin the blood of some patients with prostate cancer. The moleculartest may offer a new method of assessing the extent of prostatecancer by detecting prostate cells in the blood. These cells produceprostatic-specific antigen (PSA) and may originate from a prostatetumor. Using the molecular biology technique called reverse transcriptasepolymerase chain reaction (rt/PCR), 1 cancer cell in 100 millioncells may be found using a simple blood sample.

The rt/PCR test can determine whether prostate cells have migratedbeyond the prostate, suggesting an advanced stage of disease.Ongoing research at other cancer centers has demonstrated thatthis test may also be able to determine advanced stages of prostatecancer long before such methods as x-rays show that the cancerhas spread. One role of the new blood test may be to direct treatmentoptions for advanced prostate cancer. If the blood test showsthe cancer has spread, the patient could be given the option ofhormonal therapy or newer, experimental therapy, as opposed tosurgical removal of the prostate.

Early Stages of Development

"This test is in its infancy and the exact role of rt/PCRin the patient with prostate cancer remains to be clearly definedin our ongoing multi-center trial," said Leonard G. Gomella,md, director of urologic oncology at Jefferson's Kimmel CancerCenter. Dr. Gomella is working in conjunction with other Jeffersonresearchers, including Jose G. Moreno, md, and Carlo Croce, md,director of the Kimmel Cancer Center, in the development of thistest. Eight academic cancer centers across the United States,in concert with UroCor, are currently studying how to best applythis new blood test to patients with prostate cancer.

"Men with prostate cancer die because it spreads throughthe bloodstream to their bones. This test gives us a powerfultool to determine when spreading of the cancer first occurs,"said Dr. Gomella.

"Simply removing the prostate in those patients often isan ineffective way to treat the disease," he said. "Combiningthe diagnosis with the power of the new rt/PCR test will helpto define the best treatment approach."

The patent is the result of work by Jefferson researchers on theblood assay begun several years ago. Abram Goldfinger, directorof technology transfer at Jefferson, believes that the patentserves as confirmation of the pioneering work in this field ledby Jefferson researchers. "We look forward to these advancesat Jefferson becoming widely available to provide improved patientcare."