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‘Super-resolution’ cancer scan could stop need for biopsy

Human trials set to begin at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh by end of the year.

Trials could begin at the Western General in December. STV

A new ultrasound technique will lead to cancer being diagnosed earlier and patients getting better treatment, experts have said.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University said the new method allows whole organs to be scanned in “super-resolution” for the first time.

The images will be between five-to-ten times better than current ultrasounds allow – and could eventually replace the need for biopsy.

Dr Vassilis Sboros, from Heriot-Watt University, led the research and hailed the development as the biggest breakthrough in ultrasound technology for 60 years.

He said: “Ultrasound imaging is an indispensable tool in medical diagnosis, primarily due to its cost-effectiveness and unique real-time capability.

“Scotland has pioneered medical ultrasound starting with its invention over 60 years ago.

“However, the limitations of current ultrasound images mean more expensive techniques like MRI are often employed for diagnosis and treatment.

Having proved that it works with live animals, the team plans to begin human trials on prostate patients at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh by the end of the year.

Professor Alan McNeill, consultant urological surgeon at the Western General, said: “Prostate cancer is an increasing problem for our society.

“Whilst we have a number of methods for detecting it, these don’t always provide us with the important information that we need regarding who has cancer that needs to be treated and who doesn’t.

“A method that maps the blood flow of the tumour accurately could well provide new information about the disease state that allows us to better identify those men who need urgent treatment and those who don’t.

“It is exciting that we will be the first hospital in the world that will assess this method with patients.”

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