Toward the detection of prostate cancer in urine: a critical analysis

J Urol. 2013 Feb;189(2):422-9. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2012.04.143. Epub 2012 Sep 24.


Purpose: Prostate specific antigen and digital rectal examination have low specificity for detecting prostate cancer and they poorly predict the presence of aggressive disease. Urine is readily available and noninvasive, and it represents a promising source of biomarkers for the early detection and prediction of prostate cancer prognosis. We identified promising biomarkers for urine based prostate cancer, examined trends and outlined potential pitfalls.

Materials and methods: We performed PubMed® and Web of Science® database searches of the peer reviewed literature on urine based testing for prostate cancer. Original studies of this subject as well as a small number of reviews were analyzed, including the strengths and weaknesses. We provide a comprehensive review of urine based testing for prostate cancer that covers the technical aspects, including the methodology of urine collection, as well as recent developments in biomarkers spanning the fields of genomics, epigenetics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics.

Results: The process of urine collection is subject to variability, which may result in conflicting clinical results. Detecting prostate cancer in urine is technically feasible, as demonstrated by numerous proof of principle studies, but few markers have been validated in multiple large sample sets. Biomarker development using urine has been accelerating in recent years with numerous studies identifying DNA, RNA, protein and metabolite based biomarkers in urine. Advanced clinical studies have identified PCA3 and TMPRSS2:ERG fusion transcripts as promising RNA markers for cancer detection and possibly prognosis. DNA methylation analysis of multiple genes improves specificity and represents a promising platform for developing clinical grade assays.

Conclusions: Urine based testing is noninvasive and represents a rich source of novel biomarkers for prostate cancer. Although urine shows promise for detecting cancer, the ability to identify aggressive subsets of prostate cancer needs further development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / urine*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / urine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Proteins / urine
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / urine*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / urine
  • Urinalysis / methods


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • RNA, Neoplasm