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University of Twente developing method for improved prostate cancer screening

Posted December 17, 2012

The University of Twente is developing a method for detecting prostate cancer both more accurately and earlier and without the need for a painful biopsy. This project will become part of the Center for Medical Imaging North East Netherlands (CMINEN), where medical research, education and outpatient treatment will be combined. The pathway from research to the final development of a commercial product is expected to be completed in 2017, at a total cost of 5.7 million euros. Financial support for the project is being provided by the Provinces of Overijssel (1.4m) and Gelderland (0.6m).

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. As many as one in five Dutch men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives. Besides the personal suffering, the socio-economic impact of the disease is enormous. In order to improve the health of prostate cancer sufferers and keep rising healthcare costs under control, accurate, early diagnosis and targeted treatment are of the essence. However, current tests often fail to live up to the mark, leading to many false positives for prostate cancer. The result: too many biopsies and overtreatment. There is an increasing need for diagnostic methods for rapidly and accurately determining the presence of prostate cancer. It is a well established fact that early detection of the disease significantly increases treatment success rates.


Medical imaging holds the key to better, more cost-effective diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer. It is expected that a fully integrated, state-of-the-art 3 Tesla PET-MRI scanner made by Siemens and known as the Biograph mMR will be installed on the campus of the University of Twente in 2013. This is the world’s first scanner that fully integrates PET and MRI technology in a single device, thus providing the best of both worlds. MRI provides imaging of the morphological and functional details of soft tissue, while PET technology displays activity at the cellular and metabolic level. For the first time, it is now possible to create single images of the location, functioning and metabolic activity of human organs. This will allow doctors to spot prostate cancer accurately and at an early stage, without the need for a biopsy. The planned installation of the scanner on the university campus will be a first in the Netherlands.

Economic impact: development of a probe

There is still no suitable probe for detecting prostate cancer. A probe is a molecule that attaches to any tumour cells in the prostate, and that can be detected using PET and MRI imaging. Research and development of a suitable probe is taking place together with CMI partners (UMCGRUG andRUMCN). Healthcare professionals, scientists and entrepreneurs are engaged in a unique collaboration to develop a commercially viable final product. This project will strengthen the position of the Eastern Netherlands as a base for an open innovation cluster for medical imaging, and lead to major new products, revenues and employment. The Province of Overijssel is providing support for this initiative based on its regional economic policy. One of the primary focuses of this policy is the combination of high-technology manufacturing and the healthcare sector.

The Province of Gelderland is encouraging and supporting these projects as part of the Top Sectors and Innovation Priority Programme, particularly in the areas of nutrition, health and manufacturing.

Impact on patient care in Overijssel and Gelderland

It is expected that the PET-MRI system will be put into use on the campus of the University of Twente in The Gallery in the summer of 2013. The Twente branch of the new Center for Medical Imaging will be established here. The Center will be engaged in research and teaching in the field of medical imaging combined with outpatient treatment.

This means that the region will have a unique medical imaging facility, leading to direct healthcare improvements for the nearly 2,500 men in the East of the Netherlands who are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.

Source: University of Twente

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