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In today's (March 10) New York Times, Prof. Richard J. Ablin of the University of Arizona College of Medicine declares that that so-called P.S.A. screening for prostate cancer "has led to a hugely expensive public health disaster." Ablin says he discovered P.S.A. in 1970. The annual bill for P.S.A. screening is $3 billion. But the test "is hardly more effective than a coin toss." Ablin says the test can't detect prostate cancer and can't distinguish between the kind that is fatal and the kind that isn't. The P.S.A. test put San Diego biotech on the map. Hybritech developed a commercial version of the test in the mid-1980s. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly paid $400 million for the company. That made a bunch of San Diegans rich, and they went on to become venture capitalists and spokesmen for the emerging biotech field. Some scientists who worked on P.S.A. at Hybritech also bolstered their resumes. Other biotechs, including ones in San Diego, have and are working on prostate cancer tests.

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Comments

Visduh March 15, 2010 @ 9:53 a.m.

In recent years, it has become obvious that the PSA is just a crude screening device. For many sufferers of prostate cancer, the PSA does not detect early enough to do much good. There are better diagnostic means, but they are expensive, time-consuming, and very uncomfortable. But PSA can yield false positives, too. I was fortunate to have requested ultrasound testing, even though my PSA was "normal". Having a test done for my peace of mind detected the cancer in a moderately aggressive form. It has been over twelve years now, and my decision to have surgery seems to have been a good one. A friend of mine was not so lucky. His PSA's were "normal" until he was diagnosed with a severe case of prostate cancer. He passed away a couple years ago.

The world needs a better test than PSA for prostate cancer.

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Don Bauder March 15, 2010 @ 11:43 a.m.

Response to post #1: You made a wise decision, and I hope things continue going well. I'm sorry to hear about your friend. The one thing you can say about the PSA test is that a lot of San Diegans raked in a lot of money from it. Best, Don Bauder

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