A Caenorhabditis elegans behavioral assay distinguishes early stage prostate cancer patient urine from controls

Morgan Thompson, Noemi Sarabia Feria, Ally Yoshioka, Eugene Tu, Fehmi Civitci, Suzanne Estes, Josiah T. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Current methods for non-invasive prostate cancer (PrCa) detection have a high false-positive rate and often result in unnecessary biopsies. Previous work has suggested that urinary volatile organic compound (VOC) biomarkers may be able to distinguish PrCa cases from benign disease. The behavior of the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been proposed as a tool to take advantage of these potential VOC profiles. To test the ability of C. elegans Bristol N2 to distinguish PrCa cases from controls, we performed chemotaxis assays using human urine samples collected from men screened for PrCa. Behavioral response of nematodes towards diluted urine from PrCa cases was compared to response to samples from cancer-free controls. Overall, we observed a significant attraction of young adultstage C. elegans nematodes to 1:100 diluted urine from confirmed PrCa cases and repulsion of C. elegans to urine from controls. When C. elegans chemotaxis index was considered alongside prostatespecific antigen levels for distinguishing cancer from cancer-free controls, the accuracy of patient classification was 81%. We also observed behavioral attraction of C. elegans to two previously reported VOCs to be increased in PrCa patient urine. We conclude nematode behavior distinguishes PrCa case urine from controls in a dilution-dependent manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberbio057398
JournalBiology Open
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • Liquid biopsy
  • Nematode
  • Olfaction
  • Prostate cancer
  • Volatile organic compounds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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