Tissue Scan May Improve Prostate Cancer Treatment

It beat standard lab biopsy in helping doctors predict course of disease

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FRIDAY, April 15, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- An imaging technology called magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy may be better than standard lab biopsy tests in determining the prognosis for prostate cancer patients, a new study suggests.

MR spectroscopy provides detailed data on the chemical composition of prostate tissue samples and these chemical profiles provide doctors with a better understanding of the tumor.

This "could allow them, in consultation with their patients, to make better informed decisions on the next steps to take," study lead author Leo L. Cheng of the Massachusetts General Hospital, an assistant professor of radiology and pathology at Harvard Medical School, said in a prepared statement.

Standard histologic (tissue-based) evaluation is done by examining prostate biopsy samples under a microscope. This method often fails to distinguish between prostate tumors that will spread and those that won't spread, Cheng said, and it's important to be able to make this distinction.

Many men with slow-growing prostate tumors will live for years before dying from other causes. Treating these men for prostate cancer may cause more harm than good, Cheng explained.

In their study, published in the April 15 issue of the journal Cancer Research, Cheng and his colleagues used MR spectroscopy to analyze nearly 200 tissue samples from 82 prostate cancer patients. They compared the MR spectroscopy results to the results of lab analyses of the same tissue and to patients' outcomes.

They found that several chemical components found in the tissue samples correlated with prostate tumor invasiveness and aggressiveness. This supports the potential of MR spectroscopy to provide doctors with valuable information about a patient's prostate cancer that might not be so readily available elsewhere, they said.

Cheng and his team also found that even samples of apparently benign tissue contained chemical components that might help doctors identify more aggressive or less aggressive tumors elsewhere in the prostate.

"Not only are the spectroscopy studies as good as histopathology in differentiating cancer cells from benign cells, they may be even better if they can find these metabolic differences in tissues that look benign," Cheng said.

A larger, more systematic study of this method needs to be done before it can be used in clinical practice, he added.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about prostate cancer.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, April 15, 2005

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