UK research collaboration will find if MRI can better diagnose prostate cancer, replace biopsies

Mark Emberton, MD, PhD, of University College London. Photo courtesy of the Medical Research Council (U.K.). 

Researchers in the U.K. are preparing to study whether an MRI can be used to diagnosis prostate cancer in men earlier and more accurately than prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, which could potentially replace prostate biopsies, according to a release from the Medical Research Council in the U.K.  

The study, called "Reimagine," is funded as part of the Medical Research Council's Stratified Medicine Initiative. It will be a partnership among King's College London, the Imperial College London and a minimum of 12 industry partners led by Mark Emberton, MD, PhD, of University College London. 

“We will be testing if the MRI can be used for screening men and we hope that it will detect serious cancers earlier that are currently missed," Emberton said in the statement. "If we can detect cancers earlier and more reliably with a non-invasive test, this could help to improve the survival rates to prostate cancer, which kills about 11,800 men in the U.K. annually."  

Motivation for the research initiative stems from the unreliability of PSA blood tests for prostate cancer diagnosis used for population screening in the U.K. Additionally, this study will build on previous research, led by Emberton and colleagues, that found that MRI scans for 27 percent of men tested who had a positive PSA could rule out prostate cancer and avoid getting a biopsy. 

According to Emberton, the large research team plans to recruit 1,000 men with medium to high risk cancers to see if MRI's can be combined with other diagnostic tests to predict cancer progression. The ultimate goal is to develop diagnostic tests better than biopsies to target the correct cancer treatment for each individual patient.