Even though more than 350,000 men die from prostate cancer every year, broad-based screening for the disease remains a controversial topic. Guidelines demand that the only commonly accepted screening tool, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, must be followed by prostate biopsy if results are elevated. Due to the procedure's low positive predictive value (PPV), however, over 80% of biopsies are performed on healthy men or men with clinically insignificant cancer-prompting calls for new ways of vetting equivocal PSA readings prior to the procedure. Responding to the challenge, the present study investigated the diagnostic potential of tumour-associated circulating endothelial cells (tCECs), which have previously been described as a novel, blood-based biomarker for clinically significant cancers. Specifically, the objective was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of a tCEC-based blood test to detect clinically significant prostate cancer (defined as Gleason score ≥ 3 + 4) in high-risk patients. Performed in a blinded, prospective, single-centre set-up, it compared a novel tCEC index test with transrectal ultrasound-guided biopsy biopsy as a reference on a total of 170 patients and found that a tCEC add-on test will almost double the PPV of a standalone PSA test (32% vs. 17%; p = 0.0012), while retaining a negative predictive value above 90%.
Keywords: PSA; clinically significant prostate cancer; diagnostic accuracy; grey zone; liquid biopsy; prostate cancer screening; tCEC; tumour-associated circulating endothelial cells.