Novel Imaging Technique Improves Prostate Cancer Detection

Novel Imaging Technique Improves Prostate Cancer Detection
In 2014, prostate cancer was the leading cause of newly diagnosed cancers in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. In a paper published in the journal Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Disease, a team of scientists describe a novel imaging technique that measurably improves upon current prostate imaging - and may have significant implications for how patients with prostate cancer are ultimately treated.

The current standard of care for detecting and diagnosing prostate cancer is contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which involves intravenously injecting patients with a contrast agent to highlight blood flow. Greater blood flow is often a requirement of growing cancer cells. When compared to surrounding healthy tissues, it's hoped that contrast enhanced MRIs will reveal the shape and nature of any tumors present.

But many tumors do not significantly differ from surrounding healthy tissues with contrast enhanced MRI and so evade easy detection. An imaging technique called diffusion MRI measures the diffusion of water and has been a standard imaging technique in the brain and an emerging technique in the prostate. Cancer tissues are denser than healthy tissues and typically limit the amount and mobility of water within them. But diffusion MRI suffers from magnetic field artifacts that can distort the actual location of tumors by as much as 1.2 centimeters or roughly half an inch - a significant distance when surgeons are attempting, for example, to assess whether a tumor extends beyond the prostate and into adjacent nerve bundles.

The new approach described in the published paper is called restriction spectrum imaging-MRI or RSI-MRI. It corrects for magnetic field distortions and focuses upon water diffusion within tumor cells. By doing both, the ability of imaging to accurately plot a tumor's location is increased and there is a more refined sense of the tumor's extent.

In a related paper to be published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology, the same team of researchers reported that RSI-MRI appears to predict tumor grade. Higher grade tumors correlate with higher restricted water volume in the cancer cells' large nuclei.

Prostate cancer can often be an indolent disease, where a patient may only require surveillance rather than aggressive surgery. If this image technique can predict the tumor grade, it may be possible to spare some patients from prostate resection and monitor their cancer with imaging.

Originally posted by University of California - San Diego.