A PMSA scan, a new type of PET scan, demonstrates promising results in becoming the new preferred method of detecting recurring prostate cancer.

PSMA: A Gold Standard in Detecting Recurrent Prostate Cancer?

Last updated: September 2022

Not long ago I wrote an article on Axumin, a radioactive injection used in conjunction with a PET scan, and its potential to improve the detection and location of recurrent prostate cancer (PCa).

Axumin, however, is not the only PET scan being developed for prostate cancer. If anyone needs an example that prostate cancer research is moving forward, it can be found in the fact that Axumin may be displaced as the primary method for finding recurrent prostate cancer by the PSMA.

How does a PSMA PET scan work?

Because prostate cancer generally grows slowly (even fast-growing PCa can be slower than other cancers) it can sometimes be difficult for the PET to pick up, particularly at low PSA levels.

What differentiates PSMA from other PET scans is that it is an actual protein located in prostate cancer cells. Because the PSMA is a protein present on prostate cancer cells, PSMA-targeted drugs can potentially better help identify where those cells are (in the event of recurrence) or if the cancer is spreading.1

Evidence supporting the benefits of PSMA scans

Studies have shown the superiority of PSMA compared to other scans, particularly when it comes to detecting prostate cancer at lower PSA levels.2

A study published in the Journal Lancet Oncology detailed a head-to-head examination of PSMA vs. Axumin. The study consisted of 50 patients with PSA between 0.2 and 2.0 ng/ml. They underwent Axumin and PSMA PET scans within 15 days. Detection rates were significantly lower for Axumin versus PSMA. The authors concluded that "PSMA should be the PET tracer of choice when PET-CT imaging is considered for subsequent treatment management decisions in patients with prostate cancer and biochemical recurrence after radical prostatectomy and low PSA concentrations."3

The future of prostate cancer screening research

As of my writing this, there were multiple additional ongoing clinical trials regarding PSMA, and hope for advances in research.

Editor's note: since this article was published, drugs for PSMA-targeted PET imaging have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

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