Article Abstract

Clinical implications of PET/CT in prostate cancer management

Authors: Kareem N. Rayn, Youssef A. Elnabawi, Niki Sheth


Several imaging modalities exist for the investigation of prostate cancer (PCa). From ultrasound to computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the role of imaging in detecting lesion foci, staging, and localizing disease after biochemical recurrence (BCR) is expanding. However, many of the conventional imaging modalities are suboptimal, particularly in the detection of metastasis. Positron emission tomography (PET) has recently emerged as a promising tool in PCa management. The ability to develop radiolabeled tracers for functional imaging based on characteristics of PCa cells can potentially provide more insight into management by utilizing key features of those cells, such as metabolic activity, increased proliferation, and receptor expression. 18-flurodeoxyglucose (FDG) is one of the earliest tracers used in PET imaging that takes advantage of increased metabolism of glucose. Its role in PCa has been somewhat limited due to poor resolution and confounders including noise resulting from the proximity of the prostate to the bladder. Choline, a precursor molecule for a major component of the cell membrane, phosphatidylcholine, shows increased uptake in cells with rapid proliferation. When compared to metabolic based imaging techniques with FDG, choline PET/CT was superior. Nevertheless, choline PET/CT was not equivocal to MRI in detection of local disease, but was superior to conventional imaging in localizing metastasis and lymph node metastasis (LNM). Fluciclovine is another novel marker that utilizes the increased proliferation seen in tumor cells. Studies have shown it to be superior to choline PET/CT in PCa management, particularly in patients with BCR. As with choline PET/CT, studies that have assessed the impact of fluciclovine on clinical practice have highlighted the impact of these new tracers on clinical decision making. Most recently, the newest molecular probe targeting prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA) was developed. It offers higher detection rates compared to choline PET/CT and conventional imaging modalities and has shown promise in LNM and BCR. With the wide range of available PET tracers, this review aims to highlight the role of each in lesion foci detection, primary staging, disease recurrence and explore the potential clinical impact.