UC Irvine chemists have found a way to detect prostate cancer that's as inexpensive and easy as a pregnancy test, the university announced this week.

By identifying markers for the disease in urine, the method can detect prostate cancer's presence much earlier, more accurately and more cheaply than current tests, according to a press release from UCI.

"Our goal is a device the size of a home pregnancy test priced around $10. You would buy it at the drugstore or the grocery store and test yourself," said Reginald Penner, UCI chancellor's professor of chemistry and the study's corresponding author. "We're on the verge of a very important breakthrough in a new era of personal health management."

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  • Prostate Cancer (INACTIVE)
  • Viral Diseases and Infections (INACTIVE)
  • University of California, Irvine

As part of a process that spanned more than a decade, UCI researchers developed a sensor that wrapped nanoscale protein receptors around a virus, boosting their sensitivity to signals from cancer molecules.

"We add a high concentration of the viruses, and they get trapped directly in the electrode. We're jamming the signal with the cancer marker, and it stays on louder than all the other material," said lead author Kritika Mohan, a UCI graduate student. "To our surprise, it works really well in the ingredients that make up urine."

Next up is human clinical trials so the scientists can bring the test to market with a commercial partner they've already selected.

— Jeremiah Dobruck

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck