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Prostate enzyme may lead to better cancer imaging

by Carol Ko, Staff Writer | June 14, 2013
Shankar Vallabhajosula,
professor of radiochemistry
at Weill Cornell Medical College
A prostate enzyme called PSMA produced in higher quantities by prostate cancer cells may be the key to better prostate cancer screenings, according to a new study presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging's 2013 Annual Meeting in Vancouver this week.

Approximately 29,700 men are expected to die of prostate cancer this year alone, and 238,600 patients will be newly diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to 2013 data from the American Cancer Society.

Though the relationship between this enzyme and prostate cancer is not entirely clear, imaging agents that bind to PSMA molecules or anti-PSMA antibodies can detect primary prostate cancer cells and secondary metastases in other organs, according to researchers.
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"This development could lead to highly specific prostate cancer imaging and potentially optimal care for patients," said Shankar Vallabhajosula, professor of radiochemistry from the department of radiology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Vallabhajosula and his team evaluated a novel imaging agent, called Tc-99m MIP-1404, made up of amino acids bound with a radioactive atom that can be read by SPECT machines.

The study showed that the agent was not only effective at imaging and mapping prostate cancer within one hour of injection — it also pointed out more lesions than standard bone imaging.

Furthermore, the agent also showed potential not just for screening patients for cancer, but could be modified in the future to be used as a therapeutic radioactive drug as well.

Vallabhajosula also points out that the agent's modality may play a role in its wider adoption. "SPECT machines still outnumber PET scanners around the world," he said.

Though wider market release hinges on FDA approval and further studies, the agent has commercial potential because it's easy to manufacture and also has a faster rate of clearance from the body than other imaging agents that bind to anti-PSMA antibodies.

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