OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Offers New Advanced Imaging Tools for Prostate Cancer Detection

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OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Offers New Advanced Imaging Tools for Prostate Cancer Detection

The most advanced imaging tools available to date were used recently at OU Health to help identify and confirm staging in men at risk for spread of cancer and progression of prostate cancer after treatment.

According to Michael Cookson, M.D., chief surgical officer of the OU Health Cancer Division and urologic oncologist with OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, a new imaging method known as PSMA-PET scans (prostate-specific membrane antigen) is now available at Stephenson. Cookson said the new technology shows great promise for highly accurate detection of metastatic tumors – those which spread to other regions of the body - of the prostate.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gallium 68 PSMA-11 (Ga 68 PSMA-11). It is the first drug for positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of PSMA-positive lesions in men with prostate cancer. The PSMA PET scan represents a significant advance over conventional imaging tools, and delivers the highest level of accuracy. The technology uses the same equipment but the injection of PSMA is a remarkable innovation. These images are used in conjunction with CT scans to more precisely identify the location of the cancerous mass.

For years, men diagnosed with prostate cancer have undergone more conventional CT scans or bone scans to determine if the cancer has spread to other areas. While these forms of imaging have been the standard of care in the United States and many other countries, they are not without limitations. Cookson said traditional scans are valuable, but can’t always detect very small tumors.

“CT scans use x-rays, which aren’t always effective in locating individual prostate cancer cells, and bone scans may include false positives, as they detect bone damage or abnormalities unrelated to cancer,” he explained. “This new tool is superior and is another reason OU Health is at the top of its game to detect and treat prostate cancer. Our patients rely on OU Health for informed direction in care, not only to determine the best course of treatment, but also to provide the best, most advanced options.”

The procedure is advantageous for patients who:

  • Are newly diagnosed and at high risk for spread of the cancer
  • Have recurrent prostate cancer after failed primary treatment
  • Have metastatic disease who may be progressing on therapy

According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, other than skin cancer, and about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Estimates for 2022 suggest that 34,500 men will lose their lives to prostate cancer. The risk of prostate cancer increases with age and is influenced by family history. It is more likely to develop in older men and in non-Hispanic Black men. It is rare in men under 40.

Cookson said the PSMA-PET makes it possible to detect the presence of cancer earlier, even though a PSA score may be comparatively low. There are greater opportunities to find small site cancers or detect lymph node involvement for earlier, more accurately staged treatment. In addition to these treatment advantages, the PSMA-PET, now available in Oklahoma, means patients do not have to bear the additional expense of out-of-state travel, and the procedure is covered by insurance in most cases.