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High Hopes for New Prostate-Cancer Test

Results released today from a study of a new test for prostate cancer have raised spirits in the medical community and at the private Seattle firm that discovered it. Onconome's blood test measures EPCA-2 (Early Prostate Cancer Antigen), a newly discovered blood protein that when elevated, appears to indicate the presence of prostate cancer. In this latest study, published in Urology, Onconome's test correctly identified 94 percent of men with prostate cancer and 97 percent without. By way of contrast, with PSA (prostate-specific antigen) tests, the current standard detection method, 80 percent of patients with elevated PSA levels do not have prostate cancer and 15 percent of patients with normal PSA levels do. Despite this, nearly 1.7 million prostate biopsies are performed each year based primarily on results from PSA testing. "It could allow us to help patients decide if they need a biopsy or if it's tame or has the ability to invade outside the prostate," Robert Getzenberg, a co-author of the study, told The Los Angeles Times.  PSA tests also fall short when it comes to dechiphering how aggressive the detected cancer is. "The study also shows that EPCA-2 levels are highest in patients with non-organ confined prostate cancer, which is important because cancer that has spread outside of the prostate is much more deadly," Getzenberg, who's the research director at the Brady Urological Institute at Johns Hopkins, said in a statement issued by Onconome. In addition to the ProstaMark EPCA-2 Serum Assay, which could be approved by 2008, the firm also is developing a ProstaMark EPCA Tissue Assay that would provide even earlier detection. And Onconome believes its testing technology has applications for colon and other kinds of cancer as well.  Onconome's most recent financing round -- a Series B, for $8.5 million in private equity -- closed in September 2005.

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