Molecular Imaging and Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 238,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed yearly and 29,000 men die from the disease each year.
As with other many other diseases, the ability to detect and evaluate the extent of prostate cancer in its early stages has a profound impact on patient outcomes. Along with traditional methods, like prostate-specific antigen blood tests and rectal examinations, molecular imaging tools now play promising roles in diagnosing and staging prostate cancer, as well as monitoring patients for disease recurrence.
What is Molecular Imaging?
Molecular imaging is a type of nuclear medicine. It shows a detailed physiologic picture at the cellular and molecular level. This permits the treatment team to precisely localize tumors and cancer cells, making for tailor-made medicine for each individual patient.
Furthermore, molecular imaging shows cellular changes much earlier than they would be detected by older imaging types. Molecular imaging also allows physicians to quickly determine the exact nature of a patient’s response to treatments like chemotherapy or brachytherapy.
These advanced imaging techniques are made possible by the injection of a radiotracer, a radioactive compound that will bind to certain substances in the body. The radiotracer acts as a kind of highlighter, showing the location of pertinent structures and physiologic processes.
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Scans
One type of molecular imaging is positron emission tomography (PET) scans. PET scans are used at Sheba to evaluate the extent and location of the cancer in our prostate cancer patients, as well as patients with many other types of cancer.
The radioisotope gallium-68 (68Ga) is bound to protein prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA), a compound that is often produced in cases of prostate cancer. Once the 68Ga-PSMA is injected into the patient, it begins to decay and emit particles. The PET scanner will detect these particles as “hot spots” or areas of greater concentration. These areas light up on the PET scan and allow the treatment team to see locations of metastatic, or cancer-spreading, activity.
Sheba Medical Center is proud to be one of the few institutions in the world using cutting edge dual laser technology to more effectively treat urological tumors while sparing kidney tissue.
A 68Ga-PSMA scan at Sheba only takes a single day, and results are available in 24 hours. At that time, our expert radiologists, oncologists, and other physicians consult together and recommend a treatment plan for the patient.
What is the Role of 68Ga-PSMA in Prostate Cancer Treatment?
68Ga-PSMA scans are particularly useful when checking for the recurrence of prostate cancer or to survey suspicious lesions, especially when traditional laboratory blood tests like PSA are normal. 68Ga-PSMA scans can also be utilized when the patient has had a prostatectomy or surgical removal of the prostate, and other testing methods cannot be used.
Are 68Ga-PSMA Scans Safe?
There are some risks with any nuclear medicine procedure since radiation is being used. However, the incidence of adverse effects is low, and the benefits of precise and early cancer detection outweigh the possible risks.
What are the Advantages of 68Ga-PSMA Scans at Sheba?
These scans are currently not available in the United States but have been offered at Sheba Medical Center for over two years now. During this time, the staff at Sheba has developed expertise while performing over 450 studies.
Furthermore, Sheba is Joint Commission International (JCI)-accredited, meaning we are certified by the foremost international healthcare accrediting authority. Sheba’s Nuclear Medicine Department also holds QUANUM (IAEA) accreditation. Furthermore, our PET-CT camera is constantly maintained in order to meet stringent EARL standards.
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