[HEALTH] Researcher Behind PSA Test Sees Promise
- Researcher Behind PSA Test Sees Promise
By CAROLYN THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer
Thu Aug 4, 9:51 PM ET
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Prostate cancer was almost always a death sentence
when Dr. T. Ming Chu made it his life's work to find a way to detect
it early on. Now, survival is the norm, in part, many say, because
Chu accomplished his goal.
The Roswell Park Cancer Institute researcher is responsible for the
widely used PSA test that diagnoses prostate cancer by measuring a
protein the prostate makes when it's inflamed.
"From the start that was our goal," said Chu, reflecting recently on
the 25th anniversary of his discovery.
A humble Chu said his work has been gratifying. The head of Roswell
Park's Urologic Oncology Department described it as revolutionary,
and the primary reason for the disease's declining death rate.
"This has changed entirely the field of prostate cancer," Dr. James
Mohler said, "both its potential cure as well as our ability to
monitor the disease and test novel therapies for those men we cannot
Although he is retired, Chu looks forward to the day when colleagues
who continue his work at the Buffalo hospital and elsewhere improve
upon the test, which despite its use around the world is
The American Cancer Society advises testing be offered to most
men 50 and older, but the federal Centers for Disease Control stops
short of recommending it amid concerns about false positives and
questions about whether early detection actually saves lives.
"I would be the first one to say PSA is not a perfect test," said
Chu, who was born in Taiwan and spent his career in Buffalo after
receiving a Ph.D in biochemistry from Pennsylvania State University
in 1967. "It's not perfect, but it's the best we have."
And continuing research, he and others said, holds much promise.
A study published last year found that looking at how the PSA level
changes over time rather than the level itself may hold the key
in determining who may be most at risk from prostate cancer.
The finding is important because men with elevated PSA levels are
faced with a difficult choice: "watchful waiting" or prostate-removal
surgery that can cause impotence and incontinence. Some prostate
tumors are so slow-growing that some, mostly older, patients may
actually die of something else first.
"It's not the static cutoff levels but the dynamic rate of change
that'll help us get the tigers from the pussycats," said Dr. Donald
Coffey, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"This PSA is becoming a much more important tool when you look at it
with the rate," Coffey said a conference last week in Niagara Falls,
where researches noted the 25h anniversary and looked ahead to future
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in America, according to
the Prostate Cancer Foundation, which estimates that more than
232,000 men will be diagnosed this year and 30,000 men will die from
Among high-profile survivors are New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani,
Yankees manager Joe Torre and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole.