Translating Advanced Prostate Cancer Research into Patient Care

After skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in U.S. men, with estimates from the American Cancer Society showing that 161,360 new cases are diagnosed annually. Radiology, however, plays a critical role in the evaluation and treatment of prostate cancer or suspected prostate cancer. Screening can help detect prostate cancer at an earlier stage, when it is likely to be easier to treat.  

John Kurhanewicz, PhD, professor in residence and director of the UCSF Body Research Interest Group, the Biomedical NMR lab, and the Kurhanewicz Laboratory, is involved in cutting-edge research to more accurately and efficiently detect and characterize prostate cancers at early stages.

UCSF is the world leader in prostate cancer imaging, based on its extensive NIH-funded research program. Dr. Kurhanewicz’s work is at the center of that research. As director of UCSF’s large prostate cancer imaging program, the Prostate Cancer Imaging Lab, he has spent more than 25 years developing new methods to improve assessment of prostate cancer. This group applies advanced magnetic resonance imaging techniques – including metabolic, diffusion and perfusion-weighted MRI— to provide more accurate characterization of the extent and aggressiveness of prostate cancer in individual patients.

In this video, Dr. Kurhanewicz discusses some specific applications from his prostate cancer research and how this research goes directly from “benchtop” to patient care. With the first application, his team of researchers improved the MRI exam for prostate cancer by adding new metabolic parameters, which essentially light up when cancer is present. Alongside GE, the researchers translated the results of this research into practice in a clinical trial.

Today, the team is at it again. They’ve added additional parameters to the multiparametric prostate imaging exam, including metabolism, blood delivery and cellularity, which are now being used in clinical practice. Additionally, with the development and use of hyperpolarized carbon MRI, radiologists now have the ability to look at the whole prostate, or even the whole body.

What does this mean? This cutting-edge imaging research is able to more definitively detect prostate cancers and can inform radiologists how aggressive the cancer is. The techniques are superior to the alternative pathological methods, including biopsies, which only analyze a small sample of the human body. Imaging combined with biopsy informs more clearly on the presence of prostate cancer, as well as its aggressiveness.

Not all prostate cancer imaging is created equal, and UCSF’s leading technologies, interpretative expertise and advanced research are substantially ahead of the curve. Dr. Kurhanewicz’s lab has led the way for 25 years and by working closely with clinical colleagues, his research is translating into essential patient care.

Find out more about the work in the Prostate Cancer Imaging Lab by clicking here.

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