Genetic risk scores could help triage patients with symptoms of prostate cancer in primary care

A new research paper published today, has investigated the application of genetic risk scores (GRS) in primary care, with the aim of improving the diagnostic pathway for symptomatic patients.

The study which is the first of its kind to apply GRS in primary care to improve the triage of symptomatic patients, looked at how the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer (which are very common in older men) are typically more likely to be caused by other issues/illnesses. To help distinguish between these causes the research team calculated a genetic risk score for prostate cancer and applied it to men seeing their GP with these symptoms. A genetic risk score takes into account individuals’ genetic variants and estimates their likelihood of developing a disease.

It was determined that by using this approach, GPs can identify men with a very low risk (less than 1 in 100 chance) of having prostate cancer and can therefore avoid unnecessary investigations for those patients. The approach can also be utilised to identify a high-risk group (with a 1 in 20 chance of prostate cancer) who would benefit from being referred and investigated as a priority.

Overall, the study found that incorporating a GRS for prostate cancer into making decisions about which men would benefit from cancer investigation could help achieve earlier diagnosis.

The study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, is co-authored by CanTest faculty members Dr Sarah Bailey (lead investigator) and Dr Sam Merriel and colleagues, and is entitled, ‘Applying a genetic risk score for prostate cancer to men with lower urinary tract symptoms in primary care to predict prostate cancer diagnosis: a cohort study in the UK Biobank’.

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