Scientists at Dundee University have developed a new technique for diagnosing prostate cancer in men, which they have found to be both highly accurate and reliable in detecting tumours. It’s estimated that 1.1 million men worldwide were diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, causing around 307,000 deaths. In the same year, 15% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in men were prostate cancer, making it the fifth leading cause of death from cancer in men.

Some of the commonly used methods for diagnosing prostate cancer currently include physical examination, MRI scanning or tests to detect levels of  prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in the patients blood. Although these methods are considered adequate in most cases, they come with problems. For example, biopsies of the blood can be expensive or lead to infections, and MRI scanning or physical examinations can lead to inconclusive results.

According to Professor Ghulam Nabi, who led the study:  “Current diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients. Our new method is far more accurate and also allows us to identify the difference between cancerous and benign tissue in the prostate without the need for invasive surgery.”

The new technique uses the ultrasound process SWE to detect tumours in patients. This technology is already used to diagnose other types of cancer, for example breast and liver cancer. However, in order to apply it to prostate cancer, the team have had to develop a different type of probe. This method is cheaper and less invasive than the current methods. It also helps to combat some of the problems by targeting the prostate by ultrasound.

Nabi noted: “We have been able to show a stark difference in results between our technology and existing techniques such as MRI,”. “The technique has picked up cancers which MRI did not reveal. We can now see with much greater accuracy what tissue is cancerous, where it is and what level of treatment it needs. This is a significant step forward.”

Simon Grieveson, head of research funding at Prostate Cancer UK, which funded the Dundee project (with support from the Movember Foundation) added: “The technique now needs to be tested in a much larger number of men to confirm just how well it can detect the aggressive cancers, while also ruling out those who do not have prostate cancer. With an average of one man dying every 45 minutes from prostate cancer in the UK, the need for a more reliable test that can identify dangerous forms of the disease earlier is greater than ever.”

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