Researchers to study new imaging techniques for prostate cancer

UCL researcher Prof Shonit Punwani is set to lead a cross-institutional (UCL and Cambridge) £2.3m Cancer Research UK 5-year Programme set to develop new imaging techniques for the assessment of prostate cancer.

The study of over 300 patients is set to be the largest in the world looking at a technique known as hyperpolarised spectroscopy – a so-called ‘metabolic’ imaging technique – where researchers can look at changes in human tissue metabolism in real time in more detail than under conventional scans – and without the need for radiation.

Researchers will also look at two ‘microstructural’ imaging techniques known as VERDICT and Luminal Water Fraction Imaging - which are more powerful than standard anatomical scanning methods, and which have shown potential for improving prostate cancer diagnosis.

The research team said improving prostate cancer diagnosis is vital. “One in eight men will develop prostate cancer and the risk increases with age,” said Prof Shonit Punwani, consultant radiologist at UCLH and principal investigator at UCL for the trial. “But our ability to identity men whose cancer will lower their quality or quantity of life remains poor.”

Researchers said there are 4 commons problems with prostate cancer diagnosis at present: over-diagnosis, over-treatment, missed diagnoses and an inability to evaluate which patients are at greatest risk of the disease.

Prof Punwani said: “These errors result in the application of treatments that have little or no benefit, leave men suffering with significant life-long harms and waste valuable healthcare resources. Our work will seek to reduce these errors through the use of these novel imaging techniques.”