Growing evidence PSMA imaging improves prostate cancer detection

Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute are leading the way in using specialized imaging to detect prostate cancer – the fifth leading cause of cancer death in men around the world.

Dr. Glenn Bauman, a Scientist with Lawson and Radiation Oncologist at the London Regional Cancer Program at London Health Sciences Centre and was the first to image a man with prostate cancer using a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner and 18F-DCFPyL, a radiopharmaceutical that targeted a protein on the surface of prostate cancer cells called prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) in 2016.

Since then, several clinical trials have launched, including those looking at improving treatment plan design and those looking at detecting the recurrence of prostate cancer after surgery or radiation therapy.

Currently, several studies are gathering data on PSMA PET with the goal of showing the efficacy of detecting prostate cancer using this tool and the possibilities for improving patient care it provides. Data has already been collected from thousands of men in Ontario.

Early evidence indicates that PSMA PET scans have changed how prostate cancer is being treated, but more work is underway to understand the impact of those treatment changes.

“We're participating in a Canada-wide trial called PATRON which is a randomized trial comparing outcomes for men with high-risk prostate cancer who receive standard of care versus those who get a PSMA PET scan that informs their treatment design,” says Dr. Bauman, who is also a Professor of Oncology and Medical Biophysics at Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. He continues to be at the forefront of research using PSMA PET.

In most cases men are referred to the research trials by their oncologist and are briefed on what it involves before a scan is scheduled. There are five sites in Ontario involved in the studies, including London, Hamilton, Ottawa and two Toronto hospitals.

There is hope that in the future it may even be possible to automate the detection of prostate cancer, Bauman says.

“We've done some very interesting work to look at how you can do automated detection of prostate cancer using this imaging.”
In addition, researchers are looking at combining PET and MR (magnetic resonance) imaging with a new radiopharmaceutical to better target radiation therapy.

This is the part one of a three-part series on PSMA PET imaging research. Check out part two and three.

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Amanda Taccone

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Lawson Health Research Institute
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