Although not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, results from simple urine tests are already being used to guide treatment of children with disfiguring birthmarks and adults with cancer. Urine tests, now given to all people as part of every physical, might someday provide doctors with valuable information difficult to obtain by other means.
“Many birthmarks, caused by abnormal growth of blood or lymphatic vessels, go away without treatment,” notes Marsha Moses, associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston. “But some grow frightfully big before they start to regress – big enough to kill a child. Also, some birthmarks grow unseen, inside the body. We can look at the urine of these children and predict the extent and activity of the abnormalities. Such a capability gives physicians data they can use to treat these patients more effectively.”
The same is true for cancer. Last year, Moses and her colleagues announced discovery of ADAM 12, a protein found in the urine of breast cancer patients. Increasing amounts of this protein in urine signal that the cancer is getting worse.