In a groundbreaking clinical trial, scientists claim that it could provide the first reliable technique for prostate cancer detection. They claim that this trial will offer hundreds of males the chance to receive MRI scans, hoping it could transform prostate cancer screening.
The pioneering trial will offer a 10-minute scan, which it is estimated will cost about £150, is a simplified version of the 30-minute scan used to diagnose cancer in men who are at risk.
According to the lead investigator, Prof Mark Emberton, the dean of medical sciences at University College London through this trial, it is possible that men with a negative scan at 55 or 60 years might effectively be given the all-clear for many years to come – or even for life as prostate cancer grows slowly in comparison to other forms of cancer.
The trial follows a change in guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) last month, which made MRI scans the first line test for diagnosis of the disease. Unlike blood tests, the latest generation of scans appears to be effective at distinguishing between cancers that are likely to grow and spread and benign tumors that are safe to leave untreated.
According to the media reports, the £5m trial is the first trial of its kind which includes 10-minute scan that scientists hope could provide the first reliable method for identifying dangerous tumors in the general population.
Raised levels of the protein PSA in the blood are linked to prostate cancer, but about 75% of men with high levels turn out to not have aggressive cancer that needs treatment and about 15% of men with cancer have normal levels of PSA.
The failure to detect prostate cancer early makes it difficult to treat and 11,000 men die from the disease in the UK each year.
The latest trial will invite 1,000 men aged 55 to 75 for scans through two London GP surgeries.
The scientists are assessing the prevalence of prostate tumors in the population. It is anticipated that more than 90% of men should get a clean bill of health, with others being either referred for treatment or monitored over time.
However, others cautioned that the reliability of MRI had not yet been established in the wider population.
Prof Ros Eeles, professor of prostate cancer genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: “The use of MRI of the prostate will be important in general management of prostate cancer assessment. However, currently, it is not at all clear that MRI will be reliable to detect all cancers.
“In men at higher genetic risk, there are studies being undertaken at the Institute of Cancer Research to assess if men who have a genetic predisposition to aggressive prostate cancer have changes on their MRI when they get prostate cancer. At present, it is not at all certain that it will be reliable to rely on MRI alone for this assessment.”