ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Hans Schmitthenner, a research scientist at Rochester Institute of Technology, hopes to make detecting prostate cancer — the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men — less of a guessing game.
Non-cancerous cells as well as cancerous cells can produce elevated PSA levels in the test for prostate-specific antigens commonly used to find signs of prostate cancer. Just a quarter of those patients who have a biopsy taken because of heightened PSA levels actually have prostate cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Another procedure, the digital rectal exam, which tries to detect cancerous growths by hand, can be painful and is also not a sure method because small growths are difficult to find.
Schmitthenner’s diagnostic procedure — still in its early stages of development — attempts to take a lot of the uncertainty out of prostate cancer detection by using targeting agents that seek out any cancer cells in the prostate and make them stand out with dyes that stick to their membranes.