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Research Brief

High-Frequency Micro-Ultrasound May Help Map Cancerous Regions in the Prostate

Better identification of suspected cancerous areas could reduce unnecessary biopsies and guide targeted treatment.

Jill Sakai, Contributor
Monday, June 4, 2018


Diagnosing prostate cancer currently involves the removal of a dozen tissue samples from the organ at evenly spaced intervals, guided by transrectal ultrasound (TRUS). However, standard TRUS methods, which use frequencies around 6 megahertz, yield poor visualization of cancerous tissue. An improved ability to identify and target areas more likely to be cancerous could reduce unnecessary and false-negative biopsies and improve screening.

A study appearing in the July issue of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology assessed the use of high-frequency quantitative ultrasound to identify prostate tissue properties associated with cancer risk. The research team used a novel 29 MHz micro-ultrasound scanner to generate quantitative ultrasound images from 163 men prior to standard 12-core prostate biopsies.

The team concluded that the quantitative ultrasound data could be combined with clinical measures to help identify sets of features that were more likely to represent cancer. Once trained on a subset of the patient data, classification algorithms were used to generate a “decision score” for each region of the imaged tissue that corresponded to its likelihood of being cancerous. If mapped across the entire organ, such an approach could highlight the regions most likely to be cancerous and guide future biopsies and further evaluations.

While several other approaches, including MRI, are under development to improve prostate screening, the authors suggest that an ultrasound-based method like this one offers advantages as it can be integrated into existing clinical workflows more easily.