New research backed by us and the Movember Foundation has shown that a special type of ultrasound scan, which can detect the stiffness of the prostate, may be able to spot aggressive prostate cancer. The study, conducted at the University of Dundee, has also been praised by former Rector of the university, Stephen Fry, who announced earlier this year that he has had surgery for prostate cancer.
One of the biggest challenges in diagnosing prostate cancer until recently was the difficulty in accurately detecting the disease before having a biopsy. This meant too many men had biopsies unnecessarily and that cancers were missed. But over the past year, more men have been getting access to mpMRI scans as a way to rule out some of them before biopsy and to guide the biopsy needles to areas that look suspicious.
This significant advance has taken us a big step closer to having a screening programme, but it’s not enough alone – mpMRI scans do not always give a definitive answer and they are relatively expensive.
The technology and availability for mpMRI is improving all the time, but one possible alternative is a new type of ultrasound called shear wave elastography. This clever technique is able to scan the body and measure the stiffness of the tissue in the prostate, which also seems to suggest how aggressive the cancer is. Think of it as a virtual doctor’s finger feeling for a lump!
The study involved 200 men in Dundee who were about to undergo surgery to have their prostates removed. The next steps will then be to test this technology in more men from different areas of the country.
We funded this study, with support from the Movember Foundation, back in 2013 so we’re delighted to see the promising results published in The Journal of Urology. While this is still at an early stage, shear wave elastography shows potential for being able to improve the detection of prostate cancer as well as guiding biopsies. This discovery would not have been possible without your support and that of countless mo bros and sistas, so thank you all! Please continue to support us by Marching for Men this summer, so we can back more ground-breaking research like this.
Ghulam Nabi, Professor of Surgical Uro-oncology at the University of Dundee and Lead for Prostate Cancer Surgery with NHS Tayside, said: “Prostate cancer is one of the most difficult to pinpoint. We are still in a position where our diagnosis of prostate cancer is extremely inefficient, leading to unnecessary treatments for many patients.
It is like someone has turned the lights on in a darkened room.
“The new method we have developed shows we can achieve much greater levels of diagnosis, including identifying the difference between cancerous and benign tissue without the need for invasive surgery.
“It is like someone has turned the lights on in a darkened room. We can now see with much greater accuracy what tissue is cancerous, where it is and what level of treatment it needs.”
Simon Grieveson, Head of Research Funding at Prostate Cancer UK, said, “With one man dying every 45 minutes from prostate cancer in the UK, the need for a more reliable test which can identify dangerous forms of the disease earlier is greater than ever.
“This research has shown the potential of a novel form of ultrasound called shear wave elastography in detecting clinically significant prostate cancer. If proven to be effective, this could lead to a more accurate and cost effective option than current diagnostic tests. This promising new technique now needs to be tested in a much larger number of men to confirm just how well it can detect the aggressive cancers, whilst also ruling out those who do not have prostate cancer. We look forward to further results in this area.”
Stephen Fry, a former Rector of the University who recently revealed he had undergone surgery for prostate cancer, said “Anyone who has been in my position will know that when it comes to this pernicious disease early screening and diagnosis is the absolute key to a successful outcome. The news of this breakthrough comes at a time when prostate cancer is being pushed to the forefront of our consciousness in the UK, not least because of the disturbing upward trend in its prevalence.”