Ann Arbor researchers develop simple prostate cancer urine test

Majority of invasive biopsies unnecessary, experts say

The LynxDx leadership team. In the front row (from left to right) are: Spencer Heaton, Chief Medical and Commercial Officer; Steve Riggs, President; and Jeff Crays, Chief Technology Officer. In the back row (from left to right) are: Paul Graves, Vice President of Finance and Human Resources; Brendan Tarrier, Director of Research Development; Emily Twanmo, VP Marketing & Business Transformation Consultant; John Kitchen, Director of Laboratory Operations; Bill Crafts, Director of Quality Assurance, and Ken Disney, Director of Operations. (LynxDx)

ANN ARBOR – For years, researchers have been looking for ways to simplify invasive prostate cancer screenings.

One team at the University of Michigan made a medical breakthrough when, based on existing literature, they identified that half of all prostate tumors harbor specific genes that fuse together after relocating on a chromosome.

This discovery, spearheaded by research professor Arul Chinnaiyan, led to the creation of MyProstateScore™ (MPS), which can identify when the genetic anomaly occurs -- and when it doesn’t -- based on a simple urine test.

MPS was developed by LynxDx -- and if you’ve gotten a COVID test in the Ann Arbor area over the past two years it’s likely it was either at one of its drive-thru sites or that the lab processed the test you received at another location.

The LynxDx team was about to launch its MPS lab in March 2020 when COVID hit.

With ample lab space, the team decided to pivot to COVID testing at a time when it wasn’t widely offered. LynxDx ordered several quantitative PCR machines -- at $100,000 apiece -- and quickly became one of the largest testing labs in Michigan, processing more than one million COVID tests. But as demand for testing wanes, the team is shifting their focus back to their original purpose.

Spencer Heaton, LynxDx's Chief Medical and Commercial Officer. (LynxDx)

Read: How an Ann Arbor company became a leading COVID testing lab in Michigan

The MyProstateScore urine test has been commercially available since 2015, but LynxDx only recently ramped up efforts to expand across the country.

“This is the kind of discovery that in certain research circles becomes really well known really quickly,” said LynxDx Chief Medical and Commercial Officer Spencer Heaton. “The gene fusion was a really profound discovery in the prostate cancer space. The availability of this simple urine screening tool has really raised the bar in diagnostic accuracy.”

However, he said, the awareness is lacking.

“Urologists and patients alike are currently settling for very suboptimal screening pathways,” said Heaton. “They err on the side of relying heavily on PSA, which is the widely available screening blood test that is very nonspecific. If it’s elevated, they follow that blood test with a biopsy, which is invasive.”

Heaton said that the biopsy is unnecessary in 8 out of 10 men that get it done. MPS’ 98% accuracy is also a game changer in the prostate cancer space.

“We’re not the first test in this space but we’re the most accurate,” he said.

How it works

All urine samples are shipped to LynxDx’s Ann Arbor lab for processing on the qPCR instruments.

Test results are available within one week and it will be a similar user experience as LynxDx’s platform.

The test costs a maximum of $300 and could potentially be covered by Medicare in the coming months, said Heaton. Biopsies, on the other hand, can cost thousands of dollars.

The test is available nationally. Patients who are interested in MyProstateScore should talk with their urologist, said Heaton. Urologists and physicians who would like to offer it should contact LynxDx.

Steve Riggs, LynxDx's President and Chief Executive Officer. (LynxDx)

“Several doctors at U-M have actually been ordering this test for years,” said LynxDx President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Riggs. “In addition to MyProstateScore providing diagnostic information, it also helps the physician, patients and loved ones guide their next steps on whether they should receive a biopsy or not.”

To learn more about MyProstateScore, visit www.lynxdx.com/my-prostate-score.

To see a list of job openings at LynxDx, visit www.lynxdx.com/careers.


About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.