John T. Griffith 5:14 p.m., May 22
PSA Test for Prostate Cancer "Disaster," Says Scientist
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.