NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - September 14, 2010) - The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $3.3 million grant to researchers led by Riverside Research Institute to increase the reliability of imaging prostate cancer by combining advanced ultrasound and magnetic-resonance methods. These improvements are expected to lead to more effective detection and treatment of prostate cancer.
The project, which involves scientists at Riverside Research Institute and Rutgers University, clinicians from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and engineers at GE Global Research, will perform research to help urologists zero in on suspicious tissue in the prostate gland when they perform needle biopsies or undertake focal treatment for prostate cancer. Dr. Ernest Feleppa is the principal investigator at Riverside Research Institute in New York, NY. Dr. Feleppa is a Fellow of the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine and the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering. In 2008, he was honored by receiving the Joseph H. Holmes Pioneer Award in Basic Science from the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine. He is an internationally recognized leader in developing advanced ultrasound technology -- particularly for imaging prostate cancer. Dr. Feleppa's collaborators in the newly funded project are Prof. Anant Madabhushi, the lead scientific investigator of the project at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ, Dr. Maryellen Sun, the lead clinical investigator at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA, and Dr. Kai Thomenius, the lead scientific investigator at GE Global Research in Niskayuna, NY. Additional key team members are Dr. Clare Tempany of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA, Dr. Neil Rofsky of the University of Texas in Dallas, TX, and Dr. Nicolas Bloch of the Boston Medical Center in Boston, MA; all serve as consultants on the project.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the grant under its industrial-academic partnership program to fund work that has the potential to move quickly from the research laboratory to patient care. Under this award, the research team is developing technology to image suspected cancerous prostate tissue using a combination of information derived from magnetic-resonance signals acquired before the biopsy or treatment procedure and ultrasound signals acquired at the time of the procedure.
Currently, needle biopsies of the prostate are most often guided by conventional ultrasound images that are used systematically to guide urologists to various regions of the prostate gland from which they extract samples of tissue. However, although ultrasound can image the gland very well, it cannot reveal the presence or location of suspicious tissue inside the gland; so in effect, although biopsies are performed systematically with respect to the gland itself, they are done "blindly" with respect to cancers that may be present. If the biopsy samples don't sample cancerous tissues, undetected cancer still may be present.
"As a result, urologists aren't always confident about ruling out cancer after a negative biopsy procedure that was guided by conventional ultrasound, particularly in the presence of a high or rising blood-test PSA level," said Dr. Feleppa. The advanced ultrasound methods developed by Dr. Feleppa analyze ultrasound echo signals in unique ways and show exciting promise for reliably imaging prostate cancer, and therefore for improving guidance of biopsies and targeting of therapy.
Similarly, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have been using advanced MR methods to identify cancerous tissue regions within the prostate gland. The reliability of these advanced MR methods is similar to the reliability of Dr. Feleppa's advanced ultrasound methods.
A unique and innovative feature of the newly funded study is its novel means of more-fully exploitating the cancer-imaging capabilities of the advanced ultrasound and MR techniques by combining them. Ultrasound signal properties depend on microscopic architecture of tissue while MR signal properties depend on the chemical constituents of tissue and various dynamic properties of tissue. Combining the independent information available in these two modalities potentially can provide a far more-reliable method of imaging prostate cancer than is posible using either advanced method alone. By making otherwise "invisible" cancers visible, biopsy needles can be directed into suspicious tissue while avoiding unnecessary sampling of non-cancerous tissue, and treatment can be limited to cancererous regions while sparing cancer-free tissue.
Approximately a million prostate-cancer biopsy examinations are performed in the United States every year and only 20% to 30% of the men undergoing initial biopsies are found to have cancer. Some studies suggest that as many as 50% of the remaining 70% to 80% of biopsied men actually have prostate cancer; their negative biopsies occur simply because suspicious tissue is not visible on an image and therefore the biopsy needle cannot be directed to the cancerous sites. Consequently, many men whose biopsies are negative must undergo multiple biopsy examinations, particularly if their blood PSA level is high or rises.
Furthermore, because cancer in the prostate cannot be imaged reliably, current treatments of prostate cancer necessarily involve the entire gland. Whether the treatment of choice is surgery, radiation, cryoablation, high-intensity ultrasound, or other method, the entire gland is removed or is destroyed by treatment, which can cause a wide range of side effects and a reduction in the patient's quality of life. "Reliable imaging of prostate cancer using the methods being investigated in this study would allow treatment to be limited to the cancerous region, which would be of great value in speeding recovery and improving quality of life for many treated prostate-cancer patients," said Dr. Feleppa.
This latest NIH grant complements an academic-industrial-partnership grant awarded to Dr. Feleppa at Riverside Research Institute. The complementary grant teams Riverside Research Institute with Focus Surgery in Indianapolis, IN, the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA, and the University College London Hospital in London, England, to investigate application of Dr. Feleppa's advanced ultrasound methods to guidance of focal high-intensity ultrasound therapy of prostate cancer.