Epworth trial exposes hidden cancers

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Tiny areas of cancer that have long remained hidden after the removal of a prostate are no longer going undetected.

New trials at Epworth Hospital in Melbourne are allowing doctors to hunt down and remove the cancers.

The cutting-edge process is being researched by Epworth Hospital oncologists with the backing of the E.J. Whitten Foundation.

The procedure uses a breakthrough screening technique to highlight residual prostate cancers no bigger than two millimetres in size. The cancers can then be cured with highly targeted radiation.

Epworth director of radiation oncology Dr Pat Bowden said the development of the Prostate-specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA) PET scans had allowed doctors worldwide to detect tiny cancers for the first time.

He said the success of it prompted the establishment of the trial in Melbourne to test the technique’s effectiveness.

“It has changed the paradigm and we now have a chance to detect where the cancer is, rather than treating blind,” Dr Bowden said.

The PSMA scan combines antibodies that are attracted to the surface of prostate cancer cells with a radioactive tracer. When injected into a patient, the tracer reveals any remaining cancer “hot spots”.

Although the technology is new, the test has been so successful that it is already available in five Melbourne cancer centres.

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