Dr. Leonard S. Marks, a professor of urology and director of the University of California, Los Angeles' active surveillance program who was the study's senior author, said traditionally, prostate tumors have been found through so-called blind biopsies, in which tissue samples are taken systematically from the entire prostate in hopes of locating a piece of tumor -- a technique dating to the 1980s.
But prostate cancer appears detectable by direct sampling of tumor spots found using magnetic resonance imaging in combination with real-time ultrasound, the researchers said.
The findings, published online ahead of the January print edition of the Journal of Urology, found the MRI-ultrasound fusion biopsy, which is much more accurate than a conventional blind biopsy, may lead to a reduction in the number of prostate biopsies performed and could allow for the early detection of serious prostate cancers.
The study involved 171 men who were either undergoing active surveillance to monitor slow-growing prostate cancers or who, despite prior negative biopsies, had persistently elevated levels of prostate-specific antigen -- a protein produced by the prostate that can indicate the presence of cancer.
The UCLA biopsies using the new technique were done in about 20 minutes in an outpatient clinic setting under local anesthesia.
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