At the Society of Clinical Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting there was a report of a clinical trial using a new molecular imaging agent could improve diagnosis of recurrent prostate cancer.

“Despite definitive treatment, about 30 percent of prostate cancers recur,” said David Schuster, M.D., director of the division of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging and assistant professor of radiology at Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Ga. “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 radio-tracer 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 may lead to custom-tailored treatments for prostate cancer patients that cater to their specific tumor type and progression of disease,” added Schuster.

Dr. Mark Goodman at Emory University developed this new imaging agent. It consists of a fluorine-based radioisotope paired with a synthetic amino-acid (anti-18F-FACBC).

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. All cells have a system that controls the absorption of amino acids which allows the cells to grow. The researchers found that anti-18F-FACBC is aggressively absorbed into all cells, but the “uptake,” of the agent is much higher in aggressively multiplying cancer cells, which is in need for these proteins in order to proliferate.

In the trial the researchers scanned 83 men 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. The researchers were then able to use these scans to determine the presence of recurrent prostate tumors and outlying tumors that had spread to other tissues, including nearby bones and lymph nodes.

Anti-18F-FACBC 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 identify recurring tumors with a high accuracy can allow us to quickly treat recurrences while they might still be curative.

Joel T. Nowak, MA, MSW