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UCLA researchers locate and image prostate cancer as it spreads to lymph nodes
Date:7/11/2008

Using an engineered common cold virus, UCLA researchers delivered a genetic payload to prostate cancer cells that allowed them, using Positron Emission Tomography (PET), to locate the diseased cells as they spread to the lymph nodes, the first place prostate cancer goes before invading other organs.

The tiny cancer metastases in the pelvic lymph nodes are very difficult to find using conventional imaging tools such as CT scanning. This discovery could aid oncologists in finding the cancer's spread earlier, when it's more treatable, and before it invades distant organs, said Lily Wu, a researcher at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and the senior author of the study.

The next step for Wu and her colleagues is linking the non-invasive imaging advance with a treatment component, activating a toxic agent in the genetic payload to kill the spreading cancer cells. Wu hopes one day to be able to find tiny prostate cancer metastases in patients and kill them at the same time, watching it all on a PET scanner. She currently is refining this image-guided therapy in her lab in mouse models.

"I think this is very exciting for many reasons," said Wu, who also is an associate professor of pharmacology and urology. "We now know we can reach these prostate cancer metastases at an earlier stage than before, and we know we can deliver genes to those cancer cells that produce proteins that can be imaged by PET. Now we will find out how effective this genetic toxic payload is in preventing further spread of the cancer to other vital organs."

The study appears July 11, 2008 in the early, online edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.

The spread of prostate cancer to the pelvic lymph nodes is the most reliable indicator that the patient will have a poor prognosis, with disease recurrence and progression likely. Accurately assessing pelvic lymph node involvement in patients is critical in planning their treatment,
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-206-2805
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert  

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