NCI-supported researchers are developing new imaging techniques to improve the diagnosis of recurrent prostate cancer. A protein called prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is found in large amounts—and almost exclusively—on prostate cells. By fusing a molecule that binds to PSMA to a compound used in PET scan imaging, scientists have been able to see tiny deposits of prostate cancer that are too small to be detected by regular imaging.
The ability to detect very small amounts of metastatic prostate cancer could help doctors and patients make better-informed treatment decisions. For example, if small amounts of metastatic cancer are found when a man is first diagnosed, he may choose hormone therapy instead of surgery, since the cancer has already spread. Or doctors may be able to treat cancer recurrence—either in the prostate or metastatic disease—earlier, which may lead to better survival.