Health Alert: Prostate marker

NATIONAL - While they are the most common method of detection, biopsies often fail to find prostate tumors. Exciting new research proves they might one day be able to use a simple blood test to identify men with advanced prostate cancer.

Doctors are studying the use of a blood marker, called C-Reactive Protein, or CRP, as a possible predictor of prostate cancer survival.

78-year-old Al Gentner was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994, "My tumor is under control. It isn't in remission. It's still there, but it is under control."

Al's hopeful that this often deadly cancer may soon be easier to both diagnose and treat.

His optimism is based on a new discovery. Oncologist Thomasz Beer recently identified the C-Reactive Protein, or  CRP, as a sign of inflammation.

Scientists believe inflammation drives the spread of cancer. Higher levels of CRP mean the cancer's more serious, more aggressive.

Dr. Beer says, "So someone with an elevated CRP is three times more likely to die from prostate cancer in the first year or two of chemotherapy than someone who has a normal CRP."

The new study also suggests that some prostate patients with an elevated  CRP might not be helped by chemotherapy.

The good news? CRP may be easily measured in a simple blood test. And Doctor Beer believes the CRP marker could lead to better cancer treatment.

"So for some patients we may be able to reassure them that they're likely to survive longer. For other patients we may find that they're at very high risk of dying and we may steer them towards more aggressive treatments as a result of that."

That could potentially save the lives of some of the 27,000 American men who die each year from prostate cancer.

Doctor Beer's study was just presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists meeting.

Larger clinical trials will have to be done before men are routinely given CRP blood tests to diagnose their prostate cancer.