A new study, by the E.J. Whitten Foundation Prostate Cancer Research Centre at Epworth, is exploring whether a PET/CT scanner is more effective than traditional MRI scans in tracking the spread of prostate cancer.

A combination of a PSA blood test, MRI and biopsy are currently used to confirm a cancer diagnosis. Those with significant or aggressive tumours then undergo further treatment such as surgery or radio therapy.

If a low-grade cancer is found, active surveillance involving regular MRI scans and biopsies is used to track the cancer, reducing the need for more aggressive treatment.

Associate Professor Laurence Harewood says while most men under active surveillance do well, currently some cancers are missed.

“Occasionally, someone may show up in six or 12 months with a nasty cancer that was obviously there at the time, but it didn’t show up on the MRI or biopsies,” A/Prof Harewood said.

During the CONFIRM study, men will be injected with a tracer that targets the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) in prostate cancer. The patient will then undergo a type of X-ray known as a PSMA PET/CT scan, in which the prostate cancer will glow brightly.

“We hope by using the PSMA PET/CT scanner during the study we will have the ability to pick up areas of cancer that can be missed and we can go back and do biopsies. That will then give us the ability to advise the patient to undergo further treatment, rather than just surveillance.”

The study is enrolling 223 men with prostate cancer who will undergo a PSMA PET/CT scan at Epworth Freemasons as part of their active surveillance.

The study has been funded by the E.J. Whitten Foundation Prostate Cancer Research Centre at Epworth and Epworth Medical Foundation. It is being supported by Cyclotek, who are providing the PSMA tracer free of charge, as well as Tissuepath and Sonic Healthcare.