A Better Test For Prostate Cancer

Researchers have developed a painless method to test for prostate cancer, and that could help millions of men avoid a grueling diagnostic exam.

If a blood test turns up signs of prostate cancer, physicians usually remove samples of tissue through the anus, using 12 large biopsy needles. The procedure has been called “barbaric.”

That technique could be replaced thanks to researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), together with AMC Amsterdam. Research team leader Massimo Mischi at TU/e said the new procedure uses existing ultrasound scanners.

These devices create images of organs in the body using sound waves, in the same way as prenatal ultrasound scans. But until now there has been no way to tell the difference between healthy and tumor tissue. Mischi said, though, there is a characteristic pattern illustrating a possible malignancy: the fact that tumor tissue produces large numbers of small blood vessels to allow it to grow. Seeing this pattern would alert practitioners to the possibility of cancer.

The exam lasts just one minute, and the results are available a few minutes later.

In reaching their conclusions, the researchers compared tumor images from 24 patients with the patients’ prostates after surgical removal. The images showed a good indication of the location and size of a tumor.

The findings will be presented at the European Association of Urologists Congress in Stockholm later this month.

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