Communications and Marketing

Double imaging of prostate cancer

No. 35c | 26/06/2017 | by Koh

Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) are developing a radiopharmaceutical that visualizes prostate cancer in two different ways: Radioactive labeling facilitates detection of a tumor or its metastases in the body. At the same time, a coupled fluorescent dye helps surgeons identify and safely remove cancer tissue during surgery.

© Baranski/DKFZ

The so-called bimodal radiopharmaceutical binds to prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). PSMA is a surface protein that is normally present on healthy prostate cells, but is found at much higher levels on prostate cancer cells. It is barely found in the rest of the body. Therefore, PSMA is an ideal target for diagnostic purposes as well as targeted therapies against prostate cancer.

Radioactive labeling of the bimodal pharmaceutical as a PET tracer makes it possible to locate the tumor and its metastases using a combination of positron emission tomography (PET) and computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), respectively. This non-invasive imaging can also be used for surgical planning.

During surgery, the fluorescent dye that is coupled to the pharmaceutical helps physicians differentiate between malignant and healthy tissue, thus facilitating very precise removal of tumor tissue. This combined approach of imaging and therapy will substantially increase the effectiveness of surgical interventions.

© Baranski/DKFZ

Ann-Christin Baranski from the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) was honored with the 2017 Image of the Year Award of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) at its Annual Meeting.SNMMI awards the prestigious distinction for the most promising advances in the field of nuclear medicine and nuclear imaging.

The project led by Matthias Eder, German Cancer Consortium (DKTK) Freiburg, and Klaus Kopka, DKFZ, has been supported since 2016 by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of its VIP+ (Validation of the technological and social innovation potential of scientific research) funding program. This initiative helps scientists examine and prove the innovation potential and possible applications of their research results.

The researchers' goal is a first clinical application of the bimodal radiopharmaceutical that can be used in a combined approach for nuclear-medical imaging (PET/MRT or PET/CT) and for subsequent intra-operative fluorescence-guided navigation during robot-assisted removal of prostate cancer and its metastases.

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The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institute in Germany. At DKFZ, more than 1,000 scientists investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and endeavor to find new strategies to prevent people from getting cancer. They develop novel approaches to make tumor diagnosis more precise and treatment of cancer patients more successful. The staff of the Cancer Information Service (KID) offers information about the widespread disease of cancer for patients, their families, and the general public. Jointly with Heidelberg University Hospital, DKFZ has established the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, where promising approaches from cancer research are translated into the clinic. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of six German Centers for Health Research, DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partnering sites. Combining excellent university hospitals with high-profile research at a Helmholtz Center is an important contribution to improving the chances of cancer patients. DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of National Research Centers, with ninety percent of its funding coming from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the remaining ten percent from the State of Baden-Württemberg.


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