AO Project
PET/3D ultrasound system for early detection of prostate cancer, phenotyping and guided biopsy

What we do

When a patient is suspected of having prostate cancer, a doctor uses a needle to take small pieces of tissue from the prostate and they are then examined under a microscope for abnormal cells. This tissue sampling is called a prostate biopsy. We work with doctors to apply 3D imaging tools so they can see cancer cells more clearly inside the body and biopsy regions of higher risk.

Why we do it

By creating new ways to image suspicious cells during biopsies, we can answer key questions for the doctor and patient. Where are the cancer cells? Are they growing slowly or quickly? Have they spread outside the prostate? Do they need to be treated immediately or do they just require routine testing? This will help patients obtain the right treatment at the right time.

The new tools that we are creating can also make biopsies easier on patients, with less discomfort, fewer side effects, and patients are less likely to require repeated biopsies. 

How we do it

We have invented ways to combine two imaging systems to help find cancer cells and improve the accuracy of biopsies. First, we use a scanner that shows where cancer cells are located within the body. Then, “live” ultrasound images allow a doctor to guide needles toward suspicious tissue, with help from our robotic guidance system. The tissue sample from the biopsy can then be tested to get detailed information about the cancer cells and understand the severity and stage of disease. 

We are working with researchers and industry to turn our new approaches into tools that can greatly improve how doctors diagnose and treat patients with prostate cancer.

About our Project:

Prostate cancer detection and biopsy are required to provide a definitive diagnosis for early and recurrent prostate cancer. While multiple imaging modalities are now available for detecting and guiding the biopsy needle to a suspicious target, they are still not optimal as some result in a high rate of false negative findings, are costly and inconsistent with physician experience. The development of molecular imaging techniques involving an imaging tracer used with Positron Emission Tomography (PET) systems are providing more sensitive and specific methods for detecting many cancers.


This project aims to provide a method to guide prostate biopsy accurately and efficiently by developing: i) a prostate biopsy-guidance system to be integrated into the prostate-specific PET system and ii) a superior PET imaging tracer. 

Project Impact:

These project developments have the potential to provide a more sensitive and specific method to detect prostate cancer, and a more accurate method to sample the tumour for histological analysis. Together this work would allow for improved decisions on which therapy a patient with prostate cancer should receive.


Carol Richardson
Program Manager, Imaging Program

Project team 

Dr. Aaron Fenster
Robarts Research Institute, Western University

Dr. Saman Sadeghi
McMaster University

Dr. John Valliant
McMaster University