Using imaging, blood and urinary biomarkers to improve the diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer

In a nutshell

This project looks into which patients will benefit from diagnostic multiparametric (mp)MRI before biopsy and how the performance of the mpMRI itself can be improved by imaging the prostate in greater detail.

Why we funded it

mpMRI is an important tool for cancer diagnosis but using it on all men with suspected prostate cancer would be very expensive for the NHS. Improving the MRI scan and refining which men would benefit most from having the MRI the process would make the process more efficient and affordable. This will improve the diagnosis of patients with aggressive prostate cancer but also help to reduce the number of men undergoing unnecessary biopsies.

Progress so far

The team are seeing if a new type of mpMRI, called VERDICT, which uses extra information and measurements, is able to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer better than standard mpMRI. The researchers are also testing this by scanning men’s prostates with VERDICT and comparing the results with information gathered from looking at the prostate once it has been removed. So far, early results suggest that VERDICT can be used to tell the difference between benign and cancerous tissue, and how aggressive the tumour is.

The researchers also want to find biomarkers or genetic changes that could predict which men are more likely to have aggressive prostate cancer. They will combine this with VERDICT to make it more accurate. So far, the team have analysed over 120 blood and urine samples from prostate cancer patients and are identifying the most useful markers of aggressive prostate cancer.

Once the team has collected VERDICT and biomarker and genetic data from the 365 patients in the study, they will see if it can detect aggressive prostate cancer more effectively than a standard mpMRI followed by a biopsy. If this is true, the team will aim to get funding for a large trial to see if the new method could be used outside of specialist centres.

Grant information

Researcher - Dr Hayley Whitaker
Institution - University College London
Grant award - £450,112
Reference – PG14-018-TR2