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Research into diagnosing prostate cancer

Find out about the latest UK research into diagnosing prostate cancer.

Researchers are interested in improving ways of diagnosing prostate cancer. This includes identifying which cancers are likely to remain in the prostate and not cause too many symptoms. And cancers that will be become advanced.

All tests need to be researched before they can become standard tests for everyone. This is so that we can be sure they work better than the tests we already use. And so that we know they are safe.


Researchers are looking at using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans before a prostate biopsy. The study will show if MRI’s can:
  • show which men could avoid having a prostate biopsy
  • identify more aggressive cancers

Scientists have found a way to make a 3D model of the prostate from MRI scans. This means the doctor can see areas that might have cancer clearly, making it easier to find and take biopsy samples. This is being used in clinical trials at the moment.  So, in the future, men might need fewer biopsies to diagnose their cancer.

Blood tests

At the moment, there is no single, effective screening test for early prostate cancer in healthy men. The use of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test as part of a screening programme is still under discussion in the UK.

Cancer Research UK is supporting a trial to find out more about how well PSA screening works. This research is also looking at men who do not go for screening as well as the emotional impact screening has.

Researchers are investigating a blood test that can predict what the result of a prostate biopsy will be. If the test can do this, it may lead to fewer men needing to have a biopsy in the future.

PCA3 urine test

The PCA3 test is a urine test. Its stands for Prostate CAncer gene 3. Researchers have been looking at whether they can use this test to diagnose prostate cancer.

While some trial results have been promising, some of the trials have produced different results. So it is still uncertain whether the PCA3 test can help to diagnose prostate cancer.

The PCA3 test was assessed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2015. NICE don’t recommend the PCA3 urine in men who have already had an unclear or negative biopsy of their prostate gland.

Last reviewed: 
10 Jul 2016
  • Cancer: Principles and practice of oncology (10th edition)

    DeVita and others

    Lipincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015

  • Prevention and early detection of prostate cancer.

    Cuzick and others. The Lancet Oncology. Vol 15, 2014

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