Precisely locating prostate cancer so that it can be treated is extremely challenging.
This is because prostate cancer tumors can be found not only in the prostate but also throughout the pelvis and the body in cases where the tumors have migrated.
Effectively pinpointing and eliminating these tumors is important because prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in men.
PSMA PET provides better care for men who are initially diagnosed with prostate cancer or for men who were previously treated but have experienced a recurrence of the cancer. In both cases, PSMA PET is better able to find the extent of this cancer in the body.
PSMA PET works using a radioactive tracer, called 68Ga-PSMA-11. Nuclear medicine physicians inject this tracer which attaches itself to proteins known as prostate-specific membrane antigens (PSMA). Because prostate cancer tumors overexpress these proteins on their surface, physicians are able to pinpoint their location with the tracer.
The current standard of care in prostate cancer imaging is a technique called fluciclovine PET, which involves physicians injecting patients with a synthetic radioactive amino acid.
In research comparing PSMA and fluciclovine PET, teams found that imaging with PSMA PET was able to detect significantly more prostate lesions than fluciclovine PET in men who had undergone a radical prostatectomy but had experienced a recurrence of their cancer.