MONDAY, Dec. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new, highly targeted form
of biopsy could be an advance in prostate cancer care, a new study
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, say
prostate tumors can be diagnosed using "image-guided targeted
biopsy" -- the direct sampling of tumors in tissue using both MRI
and real-time ultrasound.
The UCLA team say this targeted form of biopsy is much more
accurate than conventional "blind" biopsies that do not enable
doctors to actually see the tumors. They suggested the new
procedure may improve early detection of prostate cancer and result
in fewer biopsies overall.
"Early prostate cancer is difficult to image because of the
limited contrast between normal and malignant tissues within the
prostate," study senior author Dr. Leonard Marks, a professor of
urology and director of the UCLA Active Surveillance Program, said
in a university news release. "Conventional biopsies are basically
performed blindly, because we can't see what we're aiming for. Now,
with this new method we have the potential to see the prostate
cancer and aim for it in a much more refined and rational
Almost all of the 1 million prostate biopsies performed in the
United States every year are performed after a man tests positive
for elevated blood levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which
can indicate prostate cancer.
One expert not connected to the new study said current biopsy
methods have their pros and cons.
"Currently, the diagnosis of prostate cancer occurs through a
transrectal ultrasound guided prostate biopsy," said Dr. Warren
Bromberg, chief of urology at Northern Westchester Hospital in
Mount Kisco, N.Y.
"The advantage of this procedure is that it can be performed
with local anesthesia in a urologist's office in less than 10
minutes," he said. "The problem with this method is that
approximately 75 percent of men have negative biopsies [and] the
cancerous areas are usually not visible. So, multiple biopsies are
taken to try to 'find' the cancer, the procedure is usually
repeated at some point when the PSA test continues to rise,
insignificant cancers are detected as often as significant ones,
there is always the fear that a cancer was missed, and there are
risks of infection, pain and bleeding."
The UCLA team sought to determine if more targeted biopsy
methods could change that. In the study, they actively monitored
171 men with slow-growing prostate cancers or those who had
received negative biopsies but maintained persistently high PSA
levels, suggesting that a tumor might be present.
The participants first had an MRI to visualize their prostate.
That image was sent to a device, called Artemis, that fuses the MRI
pictures with real-time, three-dimensional ultrasound. This fusion
process allows a urologist to see lesions during the biopsy.
"With the Artemis, we have a virtual map of the suspicious areas
placed directly onto the ultrasound image during the biopsy," noted
Marks. "When you can see a lesion, you've got a major advantage of
knowing what's really going on in the prostate. The results have
been very dramatic, and the rate of cancer detection in these
targeted biopsies is very high. We're finding a lot of tumors that
hadn't been found before using conventional biopsies."
Fifty-three percent of the men involved in the study had
prostate cancer, according to the study published online Dec. 10 in
The Journal of Urology. Marks and his colleagues also found
that 38 percent of the cancers found using targeted biopsy were
aggressive tumors -- meaning they more likely to spread and require
Unlike conventional blind biopsies which can be painful and
require men to be placed under general anesthesia and undergo
lengthy recoveries, the targeted UCLA biopsies were performed in
about 20 minutes in an outpatient clinic setting under local
anesthesia, the team said.
"Targeted prostate biopsy has the potential to improve the
diagnosis of prostate cancer and may aid in the selection of
patients for active surveillance and focal therapy," the study
Another expert said the the new technology has real promise.
"Prostate biopsies have been performed the same way for the past
30 years," said Dr. Louis Potters, chair of radiation medicine at
North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y. "The study
from UCLA is evaluating the next step in the evolution of the
prostate biopsy. It combines the state-of-the-art MRI which allows
clinicians to see inside the prostate with incredible detail."
Potters said the UCLA data matches those from his own
institution "that reports improved cancer detection of this
technique" compared to traditional biopsy.
"More importantly, the lesions seen on the MRI with a
corresponding positive biopsy are associated with a higher grade
cancer and increased amount of cancer sampled," he said. "This
translates into improved information for the patient, as well as
Besides allowing "better visualization" of tumors, "adding the
MRI to the ultrasound seems to allow preferential detection of the
more life-threatening type of cancer [high-grade], which could
reduce the chances that a man would undergo unnecessary treatment,"
As for cost, "the overall added cost of the MRI may be offset by
the reduced number of biopsy procedures," Bromberg said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute provides more information on
prostate cancer screening.