Up to 40% of patients diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer have a recurrence within five to 10 years. CAMC now offers a new type of PET/CT scan for men who have been treated for prostate cancer then have elevated PSA levels, indicating there could be a recurrence.
The scan uses an advanced diagnostic imaging agent (also called a radiotracer) approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called Axumin, which is a synthetic amino acid. Axumin can not only detect if cancer is present, but also its extent and how rapidly it is spreading. This allows doctors at CAMC to determine the best course of follow-up treatment.
“Axumin has an affinity for prostate cancer, more than the other agents,” said Samuel Deem, DO, who specializes in urologic oncology and urology. “It can help doctors look for prostate cancer better than any test we currently have.”
A radioactive tracer is injected into the patient prior to undergoing PET/CT imaging. If prostate cancer cells are present, they will absorb the radioactive tracer and emit energy in the form of photons. The PET/CT scanner detects these photons while the computer produces detailed images of the patient’s anatomy and shows where metastatic disease may be located.
The challenge with recurrent prostate cancer is that it might come back in the prostate, or it could come back somewhere else in the body, such as the lymph nodes, bones or other tissues.
“The gap in knowledge is finding where the cancer is,” Deem said. “Can we still treat it locally in the pelvis or do we need to start systemic treatment for metastatic cancer with chemotherapy? Axumin may help us make that determination.”
Axumin is the only PET tracer currently licensed for clinical use in recurrent prostate cancer. Deem hopes the new agent will help doctors treat recurrent prostate cancer more appropriately, which could improve outcomes and survival.
“If we’re going to put someone through a second treatment for prostate cancer, we want to know that it’s going to be helpful,” Deem said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in men. However, when detected and treated early, the cure rate is high. The American Urological Association recommends men of average risk begin screening at age 55 (earlier if you have risk factors such as a strong family history or are African American).
For more information about prostate cancer and urological services at CAMC, visit camc.org/CAMCUrology.