New Imaging Technique maps Prostate Cancer Tumors in Real Time

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Scientists have found a way to measure aggressiveness and growth of prostate cancer tumors in real time with a new imaging technique. Researchers say being able to watch the metabolic activity of tumors could revolutionize how prostate cancer is treated. The imaging technique can "see" tumors grow and how they respond to treatment.

Sarah Nelson, PhD, a professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3) at UCSF explains the imaging technique has been used in patients and animals with the same results. "We had shown this worked in animal models and tissues samples. Now, in men, we are seeing exactly the type of results we had hoped for."

Real Time Imaging Gives Immediate Results of Prostate Cancer Tumors

"This is a key milestone that could dramatically change clinical treatment for prostate cancer and many other tumors," Nelson said. Oncologists and patients with prostate cancer have multiple options, making it difficult to know which therapies are best and how they are working. Aggressive prostate cancer tumors cause 28,000 deaths annually, but the rate of growth and ability to spread varies.

Andrea Harzstark, MD, an oncologist with the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and clinical study leader says, “If we can see whether a therapy is effective in real time, we may be able to make early changes in that treatment that could have a very real impact on a patient's outcome and quality of life."

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The prostate cancer imaging provides a graph of the amount of pyruvate in tumors and the rate of conversion of pyruvate into lactate. Pyruvate is a natural compound involved in tissue function. Watching the metabolism of tumors with the newly develop equipment provides a well defined image of the tumor and provides information about whether cancer is growing or responding to treatment that is 50,000 times greater than traditional MRI imaging techniques.

Pyruvate is prepared in a sterile magnetic field at a temperature of minus 272O C, then quickly warmed and injected into the patient in an MRI scanner. An imaging facility has been built at University of California - San Francisco (UCSF).

Jonathan Murray, general manager, Metabolic Imaging at GE Healthcare says, "This is a huge accomplishment" from UCSF. The first trial includes men in the “watchful waiting" phase of prostate cancer treatment that has been recently highlighted versus surgical treatment that can have a negative impact on quality of life for some men.

The imaging is not approved by the FDA and still under investigation, but could change the way prostate cancer is treated, pending clinical trial results. Mapping prostate cancer tumors in real time can provide a non-invasive way to predict need for specific therapy and also provided "real-time" information about how well prostate cancer treatment is working.

University of California - San Francisco

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