Public Release: 

Molecular imaging 'probes' pinpoint prostate cancer

Study could lead to more effective treatment and therapy for prostate cancer as a result of a new molecular imaging technique that targets prostate tumor cells

Society of Nuclear Medicine

SALT LAKE CITY--Molecular imaging has a powerful new weapon in the fight against prostate cancer. Research introduced at SNM's 57th Annual Meeting demonstrates how a novel peptide-targeted imaging agent could help clinicians detect a biological process that signals cancer in prostate cells. Information gathered about this process may even differentiate prostate tumor types and the progression of disease.

"This new molecular imaging tool will help us develop new diagnostic and therapeutic options for prostate cancer patients," said Chiun-Wei Huang, Ph.D. candidate, lead author and researcher at the Molecular Imaging Center of the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif. "By identifying a signature on the cell-surface of specific tumor types at different stages, we could potentially develop better and more customized treatments for truly personalized medicine."

In this study, researchers used near-infrared fluorescent imaging, an optical imaging technique that images the low-frequency light emitted from an imaging agent containing fluorescent dye. The novel agent used in the study was prepared with a peptide that targets receptor activity involved in the prolific growth of certain tumor cells. This specific sequence of receptor activity is called α2β1 integrin, an expression of building-block proteins such as collagen. Cells that display an abnormal over-abundance of this activity could be cancerous, and imaging that focuses on this biological process could provide essential information about the aggressive growth, survival, migration and invasiveness of individual cases of prostate cancer.

Results of the study showed that high absorption of the peptide-targeted agent positively identified prostate tumors both in the laboratory and in three prostate tumor-bearing models. Further development of this and similar imaging agents could lead to more effective and detailed diagnosis of prostate cancer and could be used to test the effectiveness of new drug therapies to treat the disease.


According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the leading cancer diagnosis in men besides skin cancer. About 1 in 6 men are expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives. More than 192,000 men in America were estimated to be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, and 27,360 deaths were projected as a result of the disease.

Scientific Paper 4: C. Huang, Z. Li, H. Cai, A.H. Shahinian, P.S. Conti, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif., "Near-infrared fluorescent imaging of prostate cancer using integrin α2β1 targeted peptide probes," SNM's 57th Annual Meeting, June 5𔃇, 2010, Salt Lake City, Utah.

About SNM--Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy

SNM is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about what molecular imaging is and how it can help provide patients with the best health care possible. SNM members specialize in molecular imaging, a vital element of today's medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated.

SNM's more than 17,000 members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit

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