Loyola Medicine is the first center in the Midwest to offer the first effective PET/CT scan for prostate cancer patients.
The scan can detect the location and extent of cancer that has recurred after initial treatment and spread to other parts of the body. Prostate PET/CT scans can detect cancer earlier than either CT scans alone or MRI scans.
"By knowing where the cancer has gone, we can provide more accurate, precise and selective treatment," said Loyola nuclear physician Bital Savir-Baruch, MD.
After the initial diagnosis of prostate cancer, patients undergo treatment such as surgery, cryotherapy or radiation. In some cases the cancer may recur. Following treatment, men are monitored with periodic PSA blood tests. An increase in PSA levels indicates the cancer probably has recurred, but the location is often difficult to determine.
PET stands for positron emission tomography. It's usually combined at the same time with CT (computerized tomography) to improve the quality of the images and help localize abnormalities. PET employs a slightly radioactive tracer drug that homes in on the targeted tissue. PET/CT scans work well for breast, lung, colon and other cancers, but until recently did not work well for prostate cancer because there were no effective tracer drugs for the disease. That changed on May 27, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new PET scan tracer drug specifically for prostate cancer.
The drug is a synthetic amino acid analog called Axumin™ (fluciclovine F-18). Attached to the amino acid is a radioactive tracer, fluorine-18. After Axumin is injected into the patient, the drug is taken up by prostate cancer cells. The fluorine-18 emits a small amount of energy in the form of gamma rays. The PET/CT scanner detects this energy, and a computer produces a detailed image.
Dr. Savir is among the first nuclear physicians in the country trained to read prostate cancer PET/CT scans employing the Axumin tracer drug. While doing research training and completing a nuclear medicine residency at Emory University, Dr. Savir was part of the research team that developed and conducted clinical trials that led to the FDA approval of Axumin.
Loyola is offering PET/CT scans to previously treated prostate cancer patients who have increasing PSA levels indicating their cancer may have recurred. Patients are scanned from their thighs to their eyes. Loyola's first patient was scanned with Axumin on Aug. 18.
"We are delighted that we can now offer PET/CT scans to prostate cancer patients in order to improve the quality of their care," said Robert Wagner, MD, medical director of nuclear medicine. Dr. Wagner is a professor and Dr. Savir is an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
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