New prostate biopsy may end era of blind testing

Cancer Blood Test

PNAS Early Edition/AP

This undated image provided by PNAS Early Edition shows a circulating tumor cell cluster isolated using the HB-Chip from the blood of a patient with metastatic prostate cancer.

A new method of diagnosing prostate cancer may reduce unnecessary biopsies and allow for earlier detection, UCLA researchers announced Monday.

A team of physicians and engineers at the university spent four years developing this new method of image-guided prostate biopsy that may do away with so-called “blind” biopsies that are the norm today.

The new technology combines ultrasound and MRI imaging that allows doctors to see, then target suspicious growths on a patient’s prostate gland for more accurate biopsies. UCLA developed it with grant money from the National Cancer Institute.

In conventional prostate biopsies, doctors can’t see the tumor. The only way to test for it is through a random collection of about a dozen tissue samples from the prostate.

Both methods require needle biopsies, usually through the rectum, that can cause serious blood infections.

But a study of this new image-guided method, published in The Journal of Urology, suggests that it could be more accurate than conventional biopsies. As a result, the authors say it could result in fewer additional biopsies that many patients with elevated prostate specific antigen or PSA levels must undergo before doctors accurately diagnose cancer. They also say it may help in the early detection of serious prostate cancers that conventional prostate biopsies can miss.

The new image-guided biopsies take about 20 minutes and in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia.  UCLA officials say they haven't set a cost yet because the technology is so new.

For more information, check out this UCLA produced YouTube video:

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