Development of a novel test for the diagnosis of prostate cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr Andrew Flewitt, Department of Electrical Engineering

Co-investigator:
Mr Vincent Gnanapragasam, Department of Surgery

Funded by: CRUK Cambridge Centre Early Detection Programme Pump Priming Awards 2016

Published paper: Split resonances for simultaneous detection and control measurements in a single Bulk Acoustic Wave (BAW) sensor, Nanoscale, 2018, DOI: 10.1039/C8NR04665D


The Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) assay remains the most important first diagnostic test to investigate for the presence of prostate cancer. The current total PSA (tPSA) test however has serious shortcomings and is known to have a low sensitivity and specificity in detecting cancer.

In a recent study from Cambridge only 40% of men referred with an abnormal tPSA were found to have cancer. Conversely, up to 30% of men will harbour prostate cancer despite a normal tPSA. tPSA also has a very poor discrimination in detecting aggressive and clinically significant cancers. Instead many cancers that are detected are indolent and slow growing. There is thus a clear and urgent need for a better point of care test to more accurately detect clinically significant prostate cancer.

There is good evidence that combining tPSA with other PSA subtypes significantly improves detection accuracy. A significant barrier to adopting such a combination test has been the challenges of performing multiplexed assays at the point of care and in real time. This project will address this unmet need in early prostate cancer detection by exploiting a unique collaboration between novel bio-sensing technology (Electronic Engineering) and high-quality sample collections and clinical cohorts (Academic Urology).