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Researchers from University College London (UCL) are trialling a new prostate cancer test for men.

The ReIMAGINE trial will test whether MRI scans can be used as a population based screening tool to detect prostate cancer, rather than the ‘unreliable’ prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test.

The study follows the recent National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance which approved MRI as a first-line test for men suspected of having clinically localised prostate cancer.

The trail will recruit, via participating GP practices, around 1000 men with raised PSA blood test results to have an MRI scan, the result of which will be combined with high-tech diagnostic tests.

Another 300 men (aged 50 to 75 years) will be offered an MRI to see if it could be used as a screening test for men. Each patient will be given a 10-minute MRI scan, a simplified version of the 30-minute scans used in hospitals.

“The ReIMAGE screening study will assess whether MRI might be a useful test for population screening to detect prostate cancer in men using an invitation through their GP practice,” said study leader Professor Caroline Moore of UCL.

“Previous screening based on PSA blood tests and traditional biopsies have not been shown to be effective enough as a screening tool for implementation across the UK,” she clarified.

The current PSA test is considered too unreliable for population screening in the UK because of the risk of false positives and false negatives.

About 75 per cent of men who get a positive result are not found to have cancer. At the same time it misses the cancer in about 15 per cent of men with prostate cancer.

Around 130 new prostate cancer cases are diagnosed in the UK every day. In 2016 alone, 11,631 people died from the disease.

Professor Mark Emberton, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences, said: “If we can detect cancers earlier and more reliably with a non-invasive test, this could help to improve the survival rates to prostate cancer, which kills about 11,800 men in the UK annually.”

Funded by the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK, the £5 million trial is set to begin in August.