A more effective way of detecting prostate cancer which kills 11,000 British men every year, has been developed.
The method allows doctors to find up to 33 per cent more tumours.
More than 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in Britain, 129 men every day and one in eight men will get the disease during their lifetime.
The biopsy procedure traditionally has been guided by ultrasound imaging but doctors say that method cannot clearly display the location of tumours in the prostate gland.
Now a team of American doctors has found that a new method, which includes biopsy guided by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used together with the traditional method to increase the rate of prostate cancer detection.
Ultrasound has been used to visualise the prostate in order to take a representative sampling of tissue to biopsy. The introduction of MRI has allowed doctors to see specific lesions in the prostate and only take tissue samples from those spots.
But the two sampling methods often aren’t used in combination.
In the new three-year study, published in JAMA Surgery, a strategy combining both sampling methods led to the detection of up to 33 per cent more cancers than standard methods.
Study senior author Dr Leonard Marks said the findings could help lead to an important change in how prostate biopsies are performed.
Dr Marks, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, said: “Our research suggests that the different biopsy methods identify different tumours.
“To maximise our ability to identify prostate cancer, we need to take advantage of all the information we can.
“Our cancer detection rate, while using different methods in tandem, surpasses that from using either method alone. In this case, one plus one equals three.”
He said the study is the first to directly compare the different biopsy sampling methods in the same group of men.
Previous research showed the advantages of MRI-guided biopsy, but exactly how to employ the new technology has not been clear.
Dr Marks said the new trial establishes that lesion-targeted and systematic sampling are both required to maximise the accuracy of prostate biopsy.
In the past decade, MRI-guided biopsy methods, which are more targeted because they can precisely show the locations of lesions in the prostate, have been used more commonly.
But some tumours are not visible as lesions on MRIs, so such cancers may not be detected.
In the 300-person study, 248 men had a prostate lesion visible on MRI. By using all available biopsy information and methods together, the researchers detected cancer in 70 per cent of those men.
An additional 52 men in the trial had no lesion visible on MRI, yet 15 per cent of those men were found to have cancer via the traditional ultrasound method, confirming that MRI does not identify all tumours.
Dr Marks said: “Men being assessed for prostate cancer should first receive an MRI before biopsy.
“When there’s a lesion on MRI, physicians should take systematic and targeted biopsies together for the best chance at finding cancer.
“Even if the MRI is negative for lesions, men at risk – including those with elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen, a prostate nodule, or family history – should still receive a traditional, systematic biopsy.”
He said that identifying the precise location of cancerous tissue in the prostate is especially important as treatments become increasingly targeted.
While the surgical removal of the entire gland, known as prostatectomy, is a common method of treatment, emerging treatments such as focal therapy aim to eliminate only cancerous tissue in the gland while sparing healthy tissue.
Dr Marks added: “Improving our ability to see the location of cancer in the prostate in real time opens up the door for treatment innovations.
“If we can identify the location of tumours and put biopsy needles directly into them, why not find a way to destroy the tumour on the spot?”