A new imaging technique could potentially help thousands of men avoid invasive tests to check if they have prostate cancer, a charity has said.
A study published in the journal Radiology found a new type of MRI scan could help doctors rule out prostate cancer more regularly, potentially saving thousands of men from undergoing unnecessary biopsies.
Using the VERDICT MRI scan alongside standard imaging techniques was found to be significantly better at identifying men who do not have prostate cancer, according to researchers at University College London.
Prostate Cancer UK, which funded the study alongside Movember, said it means thousands of men could safely avoid having a biopsy to test for prostate cancer.
Biopsies carry a certain risk, so the finding could be significant for future practice in the NHS.
Prostate Cancer UK said if the new technique is deployed it could potentially reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies by 90%.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, said: “It’s rare to see such a big improvement on current practice, both in terms of accuracy and driving down harms caused by testing.
“These results are a massive leap forward for an exciting new test that could spare thousands of men each year unnecessary anxiety and pain.”
Experts said that the new technique could be carried out using standard MRI scanners, which means that it would be “straightforward” to deploy.
Professor Shonit Punwani, lead investigator of the trial, said: “These results show that VERDICT could allow men to know, with confidence, that they do not have prostate cancer and do not need a biopsy.
“This new technique requires no new equipment – it can be been done on MRI scanners already in use and should eventually be possible on all standard 3T scanners, so would be relatively easy to roll out into clinical practice across the UK.
“It potentially has the added benefit of reducing the cost of diagnosing prostate cancer to the NHS, which is hugely important given the additional strain on the system caused by the pandemic.
“Our next step is to use VERDICT MRI in an even bigger clinical trial across multiple hospital sites. If successful, the trial should provide the evidence needed to change practice in the NHS in the near future.”