New UM center to take medicine to personalized level

Don Levitt’s test results suggested for years he might have prostate cancer, but he decided to monitor his health and forgo a biopsy.

A few years ago, one of Levitt’s doctors told him about a more personalized test developed at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center that could better detect cancer and assess whether he needed to have a biopsy.

The test — the Mi-Prostate Score, or MiPS — uses a urine sample and looks at PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, which is produced by the prostate. But the test also looks for the presence of two genes linked with prostate cancer, and helps men make choices in their care such as avoiding overtreatment with a biopsy.

Levitt’s results showed that he was low on the presence of the two genes, and it was probably not necessary to have a biopsy even though his levels of PSA had been elevated, which sometimes means prostate cancer.

“When someone has a mildly elevated PSA level, the question is whether or not to get a biopsy,” said Levitt, an Ann Arbor-based psychologist and consultant. “It helped to reassure me that I was making the right decision not to get a biopsy.”

MiPS has emerged in an era of advancing technology being used to battle diseases on a precise level in a burgeoning area known as personalized medicine — treatments tailored to individuals based on their genome, a complete set of DNA.

Central to the test is RNA (ribonucleic acid) — a powerful molecule that many scientists are beginning to better understand and has prompted UM to create the Center for RNA Biomedicine with academics across many disciplines being able to collaborate to treat a wide range of diseases.

An inaugural symposium with five prominent scientists and two Nobel laureates will launch the center at UM on Friday, along with new scientific endeavors aimed at better health care.

Besides the MiPS test, many studies are underway at UM to examine the role of RNA, and more are expected with the new center.

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