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Improving the assessment of prostate cancer aggressiveness

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast have discovered a new way to predict the aggressiveness and future behaviour of prostate cancers.

The new method uses images from computed tomography (CT) scans that are routinely collected from all patients. The images are then analysed by a computer to extract hundreds of features, termed ‘radiomic features’, which have the potential to uncover disease characteristics that fail to be seen by the naked eye.

This technique could complement traditional assessment methods and may help clinicians to make more informed personalised treatment decisions for men with prostate cancer. In the long run, it may reduce or even replace the need for traditional invasive biopsies.

The research has been published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics and was carried out in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre and Maastricht University.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, but the behaviour of an individual cancer is extremely variable.  While some tumours metastasize rapidly, others can remain harmlessly localised in the prostate gland for years.

Dr Suneil Jain, Principal Investigator from the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology at Queen's University Belfast, said: “To predict the risk represented by a given tumour, ‘Gleason scores’ are typically assigned based on how a sample of the tumour appears under the microscope compared with normal prostate tissue. Patients are then classified as low, medium, or high risk depending on their Gleason score, level of prostate specific antigen (PSA) in the blood, and on size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.”

Professor Ian Young, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Health in Northern Ireland and Director of HSC R&D said: “Cancer is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. By supporting research like this, we can ensure that patients have access to the most innovative cancer treatments, and the best preventive strategies can be put in place.”

The research was supported by the Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence, Prostate Cancer UK, and the Health and Social Care Research and Development Division of the Public Health Agency.

To read more see the QUB press release.