Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in Sweden and every year more than 10,000 new cases are discovered in the country. More than 2,000 people also die each year from prostate cancer.
One reason for the high mortality rates is that it's difficult to detect metastases outside the prostate gland at an early stage, which in turn makes it difficult to initiate treatment in time. But now researchers at Uppsala University have developed a method that will make it easier to detect metastases in time.
"When a prostate tumor begins to spread, the metastases are initially so small that they are not visible on magnetic resonance imaging. That may cause both incorrect diagnoses, incomplete surgical procedures and unnecessary suffering. So we need a way to visualize all the tumors before they grow too big. Our main clue is two trace elements, GRPR and PSMA, which are formed in early prostate cancer", says Anna Orlova, professor at Uppsala University and one of the researchers behind the discovery, in a press release.
The researchers have developed substances that bind to these trace elements. By attaching a radionuclide to the substance, the smallest metastases can be located by means of, for example, a PET camera.
In the long run, the idea is that the method will not only be used for diagnosis but also for treatment. The substance could then be used to transport drugs directly to the tumor, which in turn would limit unnecessary toxic spread during treatment.
"Most effective is of course a comprehensive diagnosis and in parallel we have developed a molecule that binds to both trace elements during all phases of the tumor. We have already tested it on mice with a positive result and will soon continue with studies on humans. If only one of our two tracks leads correctly, we hope to give healthcare the tools needed to help all men who suffer from prostate cancer to a longer and better life", says Anna Orlova.