In a world first, Australian and Dutch researchers have shown how new imaging technology can greatly improve the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

While this technology involves magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, which has been in use in Australia for two years, they are the first to publish high-quality research showing it works.

Their study, published in the journal European Urology, showed it halved the number of men needing to proceed to a prostate biopsy.

It also reduced the problem of over-diagnosis of non-life threatening disease by about 90 per cent.

In diagnosing life-threatening prostate cancer, this new technique had a sensitivity of 92 per cent. This compares with 70 per cent for men who have the standard biopsy performed through the rectum.

The research was conducted out of Brisbane’s Wesley Hospital by urologist Les Thompson and specialist radiologist Rob Parkinson, together with research fellow Morgan Pokorny from Queensland University of Technology.

They collaborated with Europe’s “Mr Prostate”, Jelle Barentsz, a professor at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.

Improved accuracy


The new technology is known as mpMRI which stand for multi-parametric MRI – because it uses several parameters. Not only does it significantly improve accuracy of diagnosis, but it has the potential to save men pain, discomfort and infection. It can save them from having multiple biopsies.

The standard biopsy through the rectum is guided by ultrasound can involve 12 to 30 needles randomly fired into the prostate to detect cancer.

With mpMRI followed by an MRI guided biopsy, as few as two needles may be required because the suspicious area has been so well defined.

“With MRI biopsies you know you are in the lesion because you can take a picture of the needle in the lesion,” says Ron Shnier, of Southern Radiology.

Surgeon’s task easier


He has been working in the area of MRI imaging for prostate for a decade. In the last two years, as technology has improved and more data has become available, he says the use of MRI in this cancer has grown exponentially.

The latest study is “ground breaking” and another step in solving the diagnosis dilemma.

He says there will be a positive flow-on for men seeking surgery. Rather than going into the operation with 20 or 30 biopsy holes in their prostate, which could be inflamed or scarred, they will be going in with two to four holes, which will make the surgeon’s task easier.

The study involved 223 men with high blood levels of PSA, prostate specific antigen, who had both a standard biopsy and mpMRI imaging of their prostates.Those whose MRI images pointed to high-risk cancer underwent MRI guided biopsy to pinpoint cancer.

The Australian Financial Review

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