- Scientists at Imperial College London developed the scan for prostate cancer
- The 'game-changing' Prostagram will bring 'vital' mass screening 'a step closer'
- It's less invasive than the common examination technique - a rectal examinationUK scientists say a new screening technique called 'Prostagram' could catch an extra 40,000 prostate cancer cases a year.
The non-invasive, 15-minute scan is based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.Prostagram is modelled on breast cancer screening, where women are routinely offered a mammogram scan every three years as part of a national programme. This breast cancer screening is credited with saving some 1,300 lives a year, reducing the death toll by more than 10 per cent, and it's hoped similar results will be seen with Prostagram.
The new scan would suit men who are reluctant to be tested for prostate cancer due to the intrusive nature of the current examination technique – a rectal examination.
There are more than 49,000 prostate cancer cases per year and it is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK.
Following a successful trial in hundreds of men, experts have called Prostagram 'a game-changer' that will bring 'vital' mass screening for men 'a step closer'.
'Prostagram also has the potential to detect more aggressive cancers earlier and pass over the many cancers which don't need to be diagnosed.
'By finding these aggressive cancers at the earliest opportunity, men have the opportunity to be offered less invasive treatments with fewer side effects.'
A 'landmark' trial of Prostagram, involving 408 men, has been detailed in a paper published in Jama Oncology.
The trial marks the first time that any scan has been accurate enough to be considered for use as a prostate cancer screening testThe men, aged between 50 to 69 years, were invited for prostate cancer screening, using both the new scan and other established methods, from October 2018 to May 2019.
Results showed that Prostagram picked up twice as many prostate cancers compared to the standard PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test.
In total 4 per cent of volunteers had aggressive prostate cancer, of which around 75 per cent were identified by Prostagram and only 41 per cent by PSA.
Screening for prostate cancer using PSA testing can lead to problems of under-diagnosis and over-diagnosis, according to the team.
Over-diagnosis of unimportant cancers caused by PSA that are unlikely to harm those affected during their lifetime could provoke unnecessary medical interventions with unpleasant side-effects including urine leak or erectile dysfunction.
At present, some 12,000 men die each year from prostate cancer – compared to around 11,000 for breast cancer – and over the course of the last decade the number of deaths has overtaken that of breast cancer.
While breast cancer screening is routinely offered to women from 50 years, there is no equivalent screening programme for prostate cancer.
This is because PSA has also been shown routinely to miss aggressive life-threatening cancers.
About 15 per cent of men with aggressive prostate cancer can still have a normal PSA level, and, as a result, screening for prostate cancer using PSA blood tests is not recommended in any country.
The Imperial College London researchers have pointed out that their study sample was well represented by black men, who are at increased risk of prostate cancer.
The study enrolled 132 black men – making up 32.4 per cent of the total participants.
One in four black men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime and one in eight men who are not black will develop prostate cancer – although why it is more common in black men is unknown.
Plans for an extensive trial covering 20,000 men are well advanced and will proceed in the coming months subject to funding.
If results from this study are similar or better than those revealed today, there is then a clear pathway to the widespread implementation of Prostagram into the general population.
Creating a national screening programme for prostate cancer could make a major difference in reducing the number of men dying from this disease.
'The encouraging results of this research study bring a mass screening programme for prostate cancer, equivalent to mammogram testing for women, a step closer,' said Dr David Eldred-Evans, fellow researcher at Imperial College London and developer of the Prostagram.
'A major achievement for the trial was the recruitment of ethnic minority and lower socio-economic participants broadly equivalent to their proportion within the community, which could be replicated in future general population screening trials.'