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doctor pointing at model of prostate with patient in background

PSMA PET Scans: Prostate Cancer Imaging Gets Specific

By Matthew Kruse November 08, 2022 Posted in: Cancer Care

For decades, the imaging for patients with prostate cancer has been mostly based on indirect signs of cancer spread. But this has all changed recently.

Two new PET radiotracers for patients with prostate cancer have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the past 2 years. A PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan is a specialized imaging test performed in nuclear medicine/radiology departments, typically used in patients with cancer. This test localizes the site of cancer and identifies any spread to lymph nodes or distant organs. This helps the patient and the oncologist choose the best treatment.

The Most Common Cancer in Men

Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer in men. The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States in 2022, there will be about 268,490 new cases of prostate cancer and about 34,500 deaths from prostate cancer. Early detection of the cancer expands treatment options for patients, but accurate depiction of all the sites of cancer is just as important in selecting the proper therapy.

How Prostate Cancer is Found

The two new radiotracers, with tradenames Pylarify (parent company Lantheus) and Locametz (Novartis), are injected into the body using an IV and the patient undergoes a PET scan. These tracers bind to prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), a protein that is 10-80 times more numerous on prostate cancer cells (as opposed to normal prostate cells). This precise localization allows superior localization of all sites of cancer to guide the patient’s management. The test is commonly known as a PSMA PET scan.

Who Can Get This Test

A PSMA PET scan may be useful to patients with prostate cancer at various stages of the disease. According to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), PSMA PET is indicated in initial staging, biochemical recurrence, and for detection of progression of disease in prostate cancer. The test has been described as a “one-stop shop” for prostate cancer imaging.

Additional Treatment Option for Prostate Cancer

The same PSMA targeting technology is also used in a recently approved treatment for select patients with metastatic prostate cancer, Pluvicto (Novartis). This treatment provides focused radiation treatment to sites of cancer via an injected radiopharmaceutical. This treatment improves the quantity and quality of life for patients with otherwise limited treatment options.

The imaging and treatment of prostate cancer is a rapidly evolving area of medicine. PSMA PET imaging and treatment represent one example of targeted cancer therapy, using specific characteristics of tumor cells to identify and treat cancer while minimizing effects to normal organs. PSMA PET scans are offered at CHI Health.  Reach out to your provider for more information.

Matthew Kruse
Matthew Kruse

Dr. Matthew Kruse is a diagnostic radiologist with CHI Health.

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