A ‘revolutionary’ new medical software able to pinpoint the area from which surgeons should take a biopsy to detect prostate cancer has been developed by NIHR supported researchers.
The ‘SmartTarget’ software creates a 3D model of the prostate and adds on other imaging information to allow better detection of prostate cancer by overlaying tumour information from MRI scans onto ultrasound images to pinpoint the area of concern, showing where surgeons should take a prostate biopsy.
Until now, the established way to test for prostate cancer involved taking a biopsy from the prostate without knowing where the tumour was likely to be, resulting in close to half of all life-threatening cancers being missed.
However, the team of engineers and medical researchers at UCL found the new technology helped surgeons to pick up clinically relevant prostate cancers that were missed when using current detection methods.
The cancer detection rate has improved from 50% to close to 90% in the past five years, which the SmartTarget technique will continue to enhance, by allowing a 3D model of the prostate and cancer to be created for each patient from their MRI scans.
“There has been much discussion and speculation in the media recently on the degree to which computers and artificial intelligence will be integrated into clinical care,” said co-senior author Professor Mark Emberton, dean of UCL Medical Sciences and NIHR senior investigator. “Studies such as this one are extremely important as they provide valuable evidence on the performance of a new technology in the clinical setting.
“With this study we now have hard data showing that SmartTarget is as good as a group of experts in targeting tumours in the prostate, as well as a glimpse of how clinicians and computers will be working together in the future for the good of the patient.”
The best approach would be to use both the new SmartTarget technique and the traditional technique in tandem, the researchers report in the journal European Urology.