deCODE Launches PrCa Prostate Cancer DNA Test

deCODE Launches PrCa Prostate Cancer DNA Test

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted February 12, 2008 in DNA Testing, DNA and Disease

prostate glandThe genetic testing market is highly competitive. No sooner does one company launch a first-of-its-kind test than another launches a similar one. In January, Proactive Genomics made available the $300 prostate cancer genetic test, Focus5 Prostate Cancer Risk Test, that examines five SNPs. (Although it’s not clear from their website how consumers can order the test.) Less than a month later, deCODE Diagnostics follows suit with the $500 deCODE PrCa test that analyzes eight SNPs for prostate cancer:

  • Three on chromosome 8 (8q24)
  • Two on chromosome 17 (17q12, 17q24.3)
  • One on chromosome 2 (2p15)
  • One on chromosome 11 (11q13.3)
  • One on X-chromosome (Xp11.22)

deCODE states that the relative risk of prostate cancer for those of European ancestry who are homozygous at all eight is 17.6 times higher than the reference group.

  • About 40% of the population has a genotype combination of the tested markers that have an increased relative risk (>1) over the general population
  • About 10% of the population has a genotype combination that confer an average two-fold relative risk
  • About 1% have relative risk above 3

The deCODE PrCa test is available from physicians and medical practitioners. Patients can kick start the process by downloading the test order forms and bringing them to their doctor’s visit.

There is a strong market for prostate cancer testing. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men. According to the National Cancer Institute, there were almost 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer in 2007 and over 27,000 deaths attributed to the disease. The American Cancer Society recommends screening for men starting at age 50 with men at higher risk receiving screening starting at age 45.

Screening, however, is controversial. Some studies have not observed a decrease in mortality rate from early screening for prostate cancer. Early detection at younger ages may not be particularly useful because prostate cancer develops slowly and would be better left alone until many years down the line. deCODE literature emphasizes that the five-year survival rate among prostate cancer patients is 100 percent due to early detection.

From the Prostate Cancer Foundation:

…there is no unanimous opinion in the medical community regarding the benefits of prostate cancer screening. Those who advocate regular screening believe that finding and treating prostate cancer early offers men more treatment options with potentially fewer side effects. Those who recommend against regular screening note that because most prostate cancers grow very slowly, the side effects of treatment would likely outweigh any benefit that might be derived from detecting the cancer at a stage when it is unlikely to cause problems.

The Independent asks “The Big Question: Are we on the brink of a breakthrough in the fight against prostate cancer?”

Can prostate cancer be beaten?


  • A new genetic test will enable men at high risk to be identified for regular screening
  • More accurate blood tests based on a new gene target could mean earlier identification of the disease
  • Treatment could be offered to those men with fast-growing, aggressive cancers


  • The existing PSA blood test cannot distinguish between a cancerous prostate and a benignly enlarged one
  • Even when cancer is diagnosed there is often no way of knowing if it needs treating
  • Prostate cancer is unique in that it can be so slow to develop that more men die with it than from it

More on prostate cancer genetic testing from Cancer Genetics.

NB: DNA Direct (for whom I work) partners with deCODE to offer free pre- and post-testing consultation and genetic counselling.

Photo credit: Wellcome Photo Library, Colour artwork of the urinary bladder with its two ureters and also the seminal vesicles and the ampulla of vas, leading to the vas deferens. The prostate gland and its passages are at the base of the bladder in this posterior drawing.



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Comment by Ann Turner Subscribed to comments via email

I find it curious that seven of the eight SNPs are included in the whole genome scans from deCODEme (and 23andMe as well). As mentioned in the deCODE press release, the relative risk data for those SNPs has already been folded into the “Gene Profile” report for prostate cancer. 23andMe says they will be adding some of the SNPs to their “Gene Journal” report as well.

It seems like the economics from the consumer’s point of view would be in favor of getting the whole genome scans.

Thanks for letting us know, Ann! I was just about to investigate that for another post. :)


One more thought as to value for money. If companies like deCODE and Proactive Genomics provide significantly more customer support, such as genetic counseling and detailed personalized report taking into account non-genetic risk factors, the extra cost of SNP-specific genetic testing could be worth it.

Comment by Shuen Lo Subscribed to comments via email

I always assumed that Decode (and Proactive) owns the IP for its prostate cancer test, is it not true? If not, the entry barrier to the competitors would seem pretty low.

Shuen, I don’t know the answer to this but I’ll try to find out.

Comment by J.J. Subscribed to comments via email

Is the detection based on PCA3 gene?

Comment by Ann Turner Subscribed to comments via email

No. From what I gather with a quick Google search, the PCA3 test quantifies the extent of gene expression. It’s not for variations within a gene.

Comment by J.J. Subscribed to comments via email

Ann, I don’t really get what you’re saying. Can you clarify it once again? Thanks

JJ, The PCA3 gene test analyzes urine samples NOT DNA meaning that it quantifies gene expression and not mutations.


[...] sooner does one company launch a first-of-its-kind test than another launches a similar one”, Hsien at EyeOnDNA notes about this new [...]


[...] ProCa (previously named deCODE PrCa) – A genetic test for prostate [...]


Pretty surprising results of this study. since i am working in a european country, it makes sense to take many parts of it seriously. Thanks for posting it, i will get my hands on the complete study results very soon. Regards Dr. Atef.


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