Scientists in the UK have announced a clinical trial to test whether magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans will enable routine screening for prostate cancer.

The move comes after the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)  made recent updates to its guidelines to include the ten-minute scan as an effective approach for prostate cancer diagnosis.

Named ReIMAGINE, the new trial will evaluate the use of MRI scans in population screening for accurate detection of prostate cancer, which is responsible for nearly 11,800 deaths a year in the UK.

The existing prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test is considered unreliable for routine screening. Around three in four men with increased PSA will not have cancer and the test may also miss more than one in ten cancers, added the BBC.

Alongside the medical imaging technique’s ability to detect cancer early, ReIMAGINE will investigate its use in combination with other technologies such as genomics and machine learning to predict cancer progression.

The aim of the study is to determine if MRI scans could offer a better alternative to prostate biopsies.

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A total of 1,000 men with medium to high-risk cancers will be enrolled in the study. In addition, the test will be provided to 300 men aged 60 to 75 years in the community.

University College London professor Mark Emberton said: “We will be testing if the MRI can be used for screening men and we hope that it will detect serious cancers earlier that are currently missed.

“MRI scanning for prostate cancer could also help a quarter of a million men, maybe up to half a million men a year, to avoid an unnecessary biopsy if the MRI is negative.

“The majority of men will be reassured they don’t have prostate cancer and importantly they may be able to avoid the harms of a biopsy, plus healthcare systems will be able to avoid the costs. MRI is the perfect tool because it’s relatively cheap, widely available and reliable.”

Emberton is part of the academic consortium responsible for the ReIMAGINE project.