It can test a non-invasive technique that could significantly increase the chance of finding tumours. Up to now, the potentially life-saving approach to prostate cancer detection remained confined within a research setting.
The test device that mimics the prostate and entire pelvic area was developed by Silvin Knight, a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin’s School of Medicine.
Mr Knight has been working under the supervision of Prof Andrew Fagan, director of the National Centre of Advanced Medical Images at St James’s Hospital and leader of the group.
Mr Knight’s work, funded by the Irish Cancer Society and the Movember Foundation, is published in the journal Physics in Medicine and Biology.
The device that took two and a half years to build and develop makes it possible to test an imaging technique that involves injecting a dye into a patient.
A series of images are taken as the dye leaks in and out of tissue in the prostate. Leakier blood vessels in prostate tissue are a strong indicator of the presence of a tumour. However, the accuracy of the technique that is up to 42% more sensitive compared with biopsy alone could not be adequately tested until now.
“The phantom test device is allowing us to develop a dynamic contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging technique to a higher degree of accuracy than has been possible previously with just imaging patients,” said Mr Knight.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in Ireland with around 3,400 new cases of the disease identified each year.
Mr Knight said: “Currently, it is difficult for doctors to definitively diagnose prostate cancer using existing techniques. These usually require patients to go through a painful and sometimes inaccurate biopsy procedure.”
Head of research with the Irish Cancer Society, Robert O’Connor, said that the development was hugely significant.
The society and the Movember Foundation is raising awareness about prostate cancer and other men’s health issues this month.