Study looks at advanced imaging to optimize treatments for prostate cancer patients

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian men, and it is estimated that one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within their lifetime. Researchers at both Lawson Health Research Institute and Sunnybrook Research Institute, are teaming up on a study which is pairing advanced imaging technology with high precision short course radiotherapy, that could lead to better outcomes for patients.


“We have started to look at ways to integrate advanced imaging to help better understand the amount of cancer in the prostate and the location of cancer in the prostate to help guide radiation treatments,” says Lawson Scientist, and Radiation Oncologist at London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP), Dr. Glenn Bauman.


                       Dr. Glenn Bauman, Lawson Scientist and Radiation Oncologist

Currently when radiation is done, a computer tomography scan (CT)  gives radiologists the location and boundary of the prostate, but it doesn’t give details about the location of the cancer within the prostate.

“What we are doing in the study is integrating two other forms of imaging; magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) PET scans, both of which can give information on the exact location of the cancer,” explains Dr. Bauman. “This will allow us to refine the radiation treatment and to target the cancer with more intensified radiation.”

Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute, Dr. Andrew Loblaw says using advanced imaging will also pinpoint if the cancer has moved into other areas of the pelvic region, which helps target all possibilities and lessens the chance of the cancer coming back. The type of radiation being used for this study is called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) which is more accurate, and reduces both radiation side effects to adjacent organs, while also reducing treatment visits.

“The combination of PSMA and SBRT gives us the ability to save some normal tissue and dramatically reduce treatment times,” explains Dr. Loblaw. “If we know the cancer is in one place and not another, we can spare radiation from areas not needing it which spares side effects.”                                                                                                           
                       Dr. Andrew Loblaw, Scientist at Sunnybrook Research Institute

The team plans to recruit 50 men for the study that have advanced prostate cancer and need more intense treatments.  Participants will undergo the advanced PSMA PET imaging at St. Joseph’s Health Care London.  The same imaging techniques will be used to determine and track if the cancer is responding well to treatments.

This is a smarter tool that will help us more accurately know what patients have,” says Dr. Loblaw. “We will know if they have more of a metastatic disease and who has localized disease. Cure rates are better when you know exactly what you are trying to cure.”

Study participants will be closely monitored for five years, to determine the success of the more targeted and intense radiation treatments.  Dr. Bauman says this will also help quickly identify the potential need for more advanced therapies.

“Our treatments are good, but If there is a man we haven’t cured we want to know as soon as possible.”

The study has received funding by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) as part of the Institute’s new initiative that supports pre-clinical research and new clinical trials that focus on early stage, and recurrent cancers.