ProstaPalp™ supports patients and doctors by providing accurate and objective prostate cancer testing at an early stage
ProstaPalp™ revolutionises prostate cancer screening by providing accurate and objective testing at an early stage
One in Eight Men Develop Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men across the UK, according to Prostate Cancer UK. Around 47,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – equivalent to 129 every day – while as many as one in eight develop the disease in their lifetime. However, the diagnosis of prostate cancer has typically relied on a combination of a doctor conducting a physical examination – with a degree of subjectivity – and prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing, which is not disease-specific and often produces false positives.
Traditional testing side effects
Men who test positive are referred for MRI scans followed by biopsies if there is still a concern, which can be painful and lead to side effects such as infection, bleeding and occasionally erectile dysfunction. Analysis suggests that, worldwide, around 4.5 million positive PSA tests lead to biopsies each year and more than three-quarters (76%) of these patients do not have prostate cancer.
A biopsy is not always necessary
Prostate cancer research has focused on finding a test that can sit alongside PSA screening, helping to identify men most at risk of the disease. There are some forms of the cancer that are aggressive, but the majority are indolent and unlikely to impact on a man’s lifespan. While they may still require active surveillance, there is no need for these patients to go through with a biopsy and the complications it entails.
Benefits of ProstaPalp™
ProstaPalp™ can find the cases that are significant and determine their severity quickly after testing, only sending those who are likely to have cancer for an MRI scan and biopsy. The technology will provide a lot more certainty for patients and deliver quicker results, reducing unnecessary anxiety for patients. Rather than relying on subjective assessment by the human finger, it will bring a level of reproducible objectivity to what was previously a qualitative measure and help the health service focus investigation and treatment on those who need it most.
How ProstaPalp™ works
Fitted to the end of the index finger under a doctor’s glove, ProstaPalp™ oscillates against the surface of the prostate to measure its firmness, which has been identified as an indicator of cancerous cells. Malleable to the human finger and activated at specific frequencies, the device draws on an algorithm to determine the risk of cancer and, with the addition of machine learning, it will draw on more data over time.
The ProstaPalp™ device discerns the relationship between changes in the structure and stiffness of the prostate, and link this likelihood of cancer being present. The device is vibrated gently in contact with the organ measuring it at 12 different points to provide a map of where cancerous nodules are present.
Essentially, the device emulates the human sense of touch through a mechanical device to bring greater precision, repeatability, and objectivity to an area of primary healthcare that is heavily reliant on qualitative assessment. Few people have tried this at an engineering level and our initial results have been highly successful. The same principles could be applied to other forms of human tissue assessment, further down the line, and in more challenging environments.
ProstaPalp™ prototype demonstrated by Professor Alan McNeill
ProstaPalp™ Trial Success
During initial trials with patients, ProstaPalp™ has accurately detected areas of the prostate with clinically significant cancer. Surveys conducted during the device’s trials have also found patients prefer the use of ProstaPalp™ over existing testing methods.