HackensackUMC First in State to Perform New Test to Detect Prostate Cancer

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.  The Radiology Department at HackensackUMC, a member of Hackensack Meridian Health, is the first hospital in the state of New Jersey, and one of only a few sites nationwide, to perform a revolutionary new procedure to detect recurrent prostate cancer using a radioisotope called C-11 Choline.  This new and exciting procedure is the epitome of innovative medicine.

“C-11 Choline is intended for patients who have had a known diagnosis of prostate cancer, and previously were treated with radiation or surgery,” said Michael Stifelman, M.D., chairman, Department of Urology, HackensackUMC and director of Urologic Oncology, John Theurer Cancer Center at HackensackUMC.  “This new test will not only tell us if there has been a reoccurrence of cancer, but it will also help us to identify where the cancer recurrence is.”

C-11 Choline imaging represents a new and revolutionary means of detecting recurrent prostate cancer.   C-11 Choline helps doctors detect sites of recurrent prostate cancer that conventional imaging, such as CAT or MRI scans can’t.  Patients receive an injection of Choline C-11 intravenously immediately followed by a PET/CT scan. Cancer cells, if present in the body, will readily absorb the C-11 Choline, and light up, pinpointing their exact location. Pinpointing specific recurrent cancer sites within and/or outside the prostate allows physicians to more effectively target and treat recurrent prostate cancer.

“A traditional CAT scan or MRI is not sensitive enough to find cancer when it is very small,” said Sean D. Pierce, M.D., chairman, Department of Radiology, HackensackUMC.  “C-11 Choline gives physicians more information to better manage recurrent prostate cancer patients in that this technology will show exactly where the new cancer is located.  C-11 Choline shows 80-90 percent specificity, which means we can pick up very small areas of cancer with much more sensitivity, allowing us to better target our treatment of that patient.”

In 2015, there were more than 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer in the United States and more than 27,000 deaths.

According to Dr. Stifelman, “After a patient is treated for prostate cancer, their Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) drops to undetectable levels. If the patient’s PSA begins to increase, this is a major indicator of a reoccurrence of cancer. We are going to treat the patient very differently if their cancer has reoccurred, either in what we call a local occurrence, around the prostate or in the pelvis, versus if it has reoccurred somewhere else, more distantly, like in the bone or lymph nodes.”

“I congratulate the radiology team members, under the direction of Dr. Pierce, for their commitment to seeking the most advanced technology to treat our patients,” said Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., president, HackensackUMC. “This new technology is giving us a lead time that no other institution in New Jersey has.  We are able to treat the cancer at a much earlier stage to give the patient more specific and targetable therapy, and overall, the chance of a better outcome.”

C-11 Choline is an FDA approved biomarker used in positron emission tomography (PET) and is reimbursed by CMS. It is used for patients with suspected prostate cancer recurrence.  These patients have had a previous non-informative bone scan, CAT scan or MRI.

HackensackUMC has been designated a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence™ (DICOE) by the American College of Radiology.  The DICOE program, which represents the pinnacle of medical imaging care, is an achievement that goes beyond accreditation to recognize best-quality imaging practices and diagnostic care. This includes a comprehensive assessment of the entire medical imaging enterprise, including structure and outcomes. The DICOE designation recognizes excellence at multiple levels — including the professional staff, the technology and the policies and procedures the organization follows — and superior patient care.

HackensackUMC has been rank as one of the top 50 hospitals in the nation (out of 1,521) in Urology by U.S. News & World Report in its 2016-17 Best Hospitals ratings. HackensackUMC has also received the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission in Prostate Cancer. And, HackensackUMC received a Five-Star Rating by Healthgrades for Prostate Removal Surgery 2016.

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