Improving needle biopsy for men affected by prostate cancer

University College LondonDr Dean Barratt£74,014 2011 - 2013

Why We Funded It:

Needle biopsy is a common technique for diagnosing prostate cancer, which involves taking small samples of prostate tissue through the rectum for examination under the microscope. The procedure can be unreliable, as it may 'miss' the cancer if it is in an area of the prostate where a sample was not taken, and most men find the procedure painful or unpleasant. In this project, Dr Barratt and his team will build and evaluate a new device for performing prostate needle biopsy, which will allow tissue samples to be collected much more accurately, using new, state of the art imaging known as 3D ultrasound. If successful, Dr Barratt's new system will transform the way in which prostate biopsy is performed, ultimately leading to a much shorter procedure and much fewer tissue samples being required. This will improve the accuracy of diagnosis, improve the experience for men and will ultimately help to save men's lives, thus providing huge benefits for men with prostate cancer.


Scientific Title: Improving Prostate Cancer Diagnosis and Monitoring using 3DUltrasound-Guided Biopsy


Research project summary:

This project will include technical development and testing of a new 3D ultrasound biopsy system for more effective diagnosis of prostate cancer. The information provided by current biopsy techniques is limited and prone to error, hence, the accuracy of diagnosis and suitability of treatment plans cannot be guaranteed. The project plan is to build and evaluate a new device for performing needle biopsy of the prostate, which will allow tissue samples to be collected much more accurately and reproducibly than they can using conventional techniques. To achieve this, a new type of ultrasound imaging, called three-dimensional - or 3D - imaging will be used that allows the whole prostate to be imaged within a fraction of a second. In particular, the system will help doctors to collect samples from pre-determined locations in the prostate gland according to a standard plan or other information, such as a previous biopsy or magnetic resonance (MR) image. This may indicate the location of suspected tumours within the prostate.

If successful, this new "targeted biopsy" strategy will improve diagnosis using biopsy samples, and result in a much shorter and more tolerable procedure for men, because fewer samples will be required to establish a diagnosis. At the very least, the new method is expected to help improve consistency between different doctors, hospitals, and on different occasions. This is especially important for men who undergo regular biopsies as part of an active surveillance programme, or following treatment to confirm that cancer has been successfully eradicated. By the end of this project, the research team expect to have a validated prototype biopsy system to allow a large scale clinical trial for rigorous assessment of the new method in patients.

Want to see how our expert peer review panel rated this project?

See links below:


Peer reviewer quote

"This is an excellent grant application. I believe that it will yield important information which will be of help in the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer."


RAC member quote

"This proposal addresses an important problem. The methodology is sound, the objectives realistic and results achievable within the proposed timetable. The study is strategically aligned with the research interests of the study group and will provide important information on optimal prostate biopsy technique."