Multiparametric MRI for prostate cancer diagnosis: current status and future directions


The current diagnostic pathway for prostate cancer has resulted in overdiagnosis and consequent overtreatment as well as underdiagnosis and missed diagnoses in many men. Multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) of the prostate has been identified as a test that could mitigate these diagnostic errors. The performance of mpMRI can vary depending on the population being studied, the execution of the MRI itself, the experience of the radiologist, whether additional biomarkers are considered and whether mpMRI-targeted biopsy is carried out alone or in addition to systematic biopsy. A number of challenges to implementation remain, such as ensuring high-quality execution and reporting of mpMRI and ensuring that this diagnostic pathway is cost-effective. Nevertheless, emerging clinical trial data support the adoption of this technology as part of the standard of care for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Key points

  • Multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) of the prostate is a novel promising tool for diagnosis of prostate cancer that might help to reduce overdiagnosis of insignificant prostate cancer.

  • mpMRI should include four sequences: T1-weighted images, T2-weighted images, diffusion-weighted images (DWI) and dynamic contrast-enhanced imaging (DCEI).

  • Interpretation and reporting of mpMRI must be carried out following standardized scoring systems (such as Prostate Imaging Reporting and Data System (PI-RADS) v2).

  • The use of mpMRI is considered useful; the use of mpMRI-targeted biopsy is increasing the detection of clinically significant prostate cancer in both biopsy-naive and previous negative biopsy settings.

  • The use of mpMRI as a triage test is still controversial. In men with negative mpMRI, omitting a biopsy can only be considered when the clinical suspicion of prostate cancer is low.

  • Improvements in inter-reader agreement, development of computer-aided diagnostic systems and assessment of biomarkers to use in combination with mpMRI are needed.

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Fig. 1: mpMRI of a non-malignant prostate gland.
Fig. 2: mpMRI of a cancerous prostate.
Fig. 3: mpMRI of a cancerous prostate using magnetic resonance spectroscopy imaging.
Fig. 4: The anatomy of the prostate and T2-weighted mpMRI imaging.
Fig. 5: Transrectal versus transperineal approach to biopsy.
Fig. 6: Traditional and mpMRI-influenced prostate cancer diagnostic pathway.
Fig. 7: Comparison between T2-weighted images of a prostate with and without the use of an endorectal coil.


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Author information

A.S. and F.G. researched the data for the article. A.S. wrote the article. All authors made substantial contributions to the discussion of the content. A.S., A.B.R., S.S.T., G.V., I.S.G., C.A., M.E., C.M.M. and V.K. reviewed and edited the manuscript before submission.

Correspondence to Armando Stabile.

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Competing interests

M.E. receives research support from the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) UCLH/UCL Biomedical Research Centre. C.M.M. has received research funding from NI Health, the European Association of Urology Research Foundation, Prostate Cancer UK, Movember, and the Cancer Vaccine Institute and advisory board fees from Genomic Health. A.B.R. has royalties from Thieme Medical Publisher. F.G. is funded by the UCL Graduate Scholarship and the Brahm PhD scholarship. The remaining authors declare no competing interests.

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