News Release: Research , School of Medicine

Jun. 8,  2010

Recurrent Prostate Cancer Detected With Use of New Imaging Agent, Study Finds

A novel molecular imaging agent known as a "radiotracer" may lead to a new imaging technique for difficult-to-treat prostate cancers that has recurred in patients, according to findings of a clinical trial reported today at the Society for Nuclear Medicine's 57th annual meeting in Salt Lake City.

The findings of the study, led by David Schuster, MD, director of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, and assistant professor of radiology in the Emory University School of Medicine, indicate that a new molecular imaging agent could improve diagnosis of recurrent prostate cancer and determine the best possible course of treatment for patients.

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis in men besides skin cancer. More than 192,000 men in America were estimated to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, and 27,360 deaths were projected as a result of the disease.

"Despite definitive treatment, about 30 percent of prostate cancers recur," says Schuster. "This troubling statistic led our research team to diligently work on developing new techniques to more effectively detect and diagnose recurrent prostate tumors and associated cancers that have spread to nearby tissues and organs."

According to the authors, a radiotracer known as anti-18F-FACBC could be used to effectively and non-invasively detect and differentiate tumors recurring in the prostate and metastatic cancers that develop, most notably in the surrounding lymph nodes.

"This," says Schuster, "may lead to custom-tailored treatments for prostate cancer patients that cater to their specific tumor type and progression of disease."

The new imaging agent, developed by Mark Goodman, PhD, professor of radiology in the Emory School of Medicine, consists of a fluorine-based radioisotope paired with a synthetic amino-acid analog similar to the naturally-occurring amino acid L-leucine. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of protein, and many cells have a system that controls the transport of amino acids into the cell in order to facilitate the production of new proteins. Upon injection, anti-18F-FACBC is absorbed by various cells by this transport system, but the "uptake," or admission of the agent, is much higher in aggressively multiplying cancer cells, which need more of these proteins in order to proliferate.

Researchers scanned 83 patients suspected of having recurrent prostate cancer using a hybrid positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) system, a molecular imaging technique that displays both anatomical information and physiological processes in the body.

Resulting scans were evaluated to determine the presence of recurrent prostate tumors and outlying tumors that had metastasized, or spread, to other tissues, including those of nearby bones and lymph nodes that tend be to a target for cancer metastases. The agent was able to positively identify recurrent carcinomas in the prostate region with 74-percent accuracy and metastatic cancers with 96-percent accuracy, catching even small tumors within lymph nodes that other imaging agents could not detect. The ability to differentiate tumors recurring in the prostate from metastatic cancers with high accuracy is the most promising aspect of this PET radiotracer. 

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
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Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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