Technology developed at the University of Southern Californiahelped detect early forms of metastases in prostate cancer patientswhose conditions were not detected by traditional methods.

Results of a 95-patient study, published in the August issue of theJournal of Urology, showed that 15 of the patients, or 16 percent, hadearly forms of metastases that were detected in the lymph nodes.

The technique involves the use of antibodies that can detect verysmall deposits of epithelial cancers in either lymph nodes or bonemarrow. The antibodies, specific for proteins on tissue, allow for thedetection of about two cells per 1 million bone marrow or lymphnode cells, said Richard Cote, the study's principal investigator.

Cote, an associate professor of pathology at the USC/NorrisComprehensive Cancer Center, also is following up to determine theoutcome of those in whom early metastases was diagnosed. "Theresults appear to be very encouraging," he told BioWorld. "It appearsthis test can identify those patients who are greatest risk fordeveloping metastases."

Detection of metastases in its earliest stage, Cote said, would letphysicians aggressively treat those who would benefit. Conversely,those not needing more aggressive therapy could be spared theassociated side effects. "Current methods don't allow us to tell whichpatients will progress," he said.

USC researchers for 10 years having been developing methods todetect very small cancerous deposits, and they have perfected someof the techniques involved. But Cote said it is likely that thetechnology is not licensable, since the antibodies are available andthe techniques of immunohistochemistry are widely known.

The method is not limited to prostate cancer. "For all sorts of cancerswe're looking at the use of this technology to help us understandmuch more specifically what's going to occur in an individualpatient," Cote said. n

-- Jim Shrine

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