Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of human body fluids and in vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy: Potential role in the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer

Urol Oncol. 2020 Apr;38(4):150-173. doi: 10.1016/j.urolonc.2019.10.019. Epub 2020 Jan 11.


Prostate cancer is the most common solid organ cancer in men, and the second most common cause of male cancer-related mortality. It has few effective therapies, and is difficult to diagnose accurately. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which is currently the most effective diagnostic tool available, cannot reliably discriminate between different pathologies, and in fact only around 30% of patients found to have elevated levels of PSA are subsequently confirmed to actually have prostate cancer. As such, there is a desperate need for more reliable diagnostic tools that will allow the early detection of prostate cancer so that the appropriate interventions can be applied. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) are 2 high throughput, noninvasive analytical procedures that have the potential to enable differentiation of prostate cancer from other pathologies using metabolomics, by focusing specifically on certain metabolites which are associated with the development of prostate cancer cells and its progression. The value that this type of approach has for the early detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and personalized treatment of prostate cancer is becoming increasingly apparent. Recent years have seen many promising developments in the fields of NMR spectroscopy and MRS, with improvements having been made to hardware as well as to techniques associated with the acquisition, processing, and analysis of related data. This review focuses firstly on proton NMR spectroscopy of blood serum, urine, and expressed prostatic secretions in vitro, and then on 1- and 2-dimensional proton MRS of the prostate in vivo. Major advances in these fields and methodological principles of data collection, acquisition, processing, and analysis are described along with some discussion of related challenges, before prospects that proton MRS has for future improvements to the clinical management of prostate cancer are considered.

Keywords: In vitro; In vivo; Magnetic resonance spectroscopy; Nuclear magnetic resonance; Prostate cancer; Prostate-specific antigen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Fluids / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy