Prostate cancer survivor Rob Baker poses for photo.
Rob Baker says the new treatment has extended his life.Image by: Rebecca Michael
Prostate cancer survivor Rob Baker poses for photo.
28 November 2022

Introducing Lu-PSMA: A revolutionary new treatment for men with advanced prostate cancer

4 minutes read time

Movember is proud to be supporting the funding and development of Lutetium PSMA (Lu-PSMA) in Australia. A revolutionary new treatment option for men living with incurable prostate cancer.

Hailed as a new class of prostate cancer medicine because of its incredible precision, Lu-PSMA is a radioactive molecule that's injected into the vein and attaches to cells with high amounts of PSMA (a protein that's present on the surface of nearly all prostate cancer cells, but not commonplace on normal tissue). Allowing radioactivity to be delivered to an extremely localised area within the body, in some cases, areas just 1mm in diameter. That means radiation can target cancer cells no bigger than the size of a grain of rice.

One of the great benefits of Lu-PSMA is that radiation only travels a short distance from the targeted cancer site, meaning there is less harm to surrounding healthy tissue. This is a welcome change to traditional prostate cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, which have large levels of toxicity, often resulting in severe ongoing side effects like fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as impacts to sexual function, fertility, and continence.

A phase II study called TheraP was carried out to measure the success of Lu-PSMA against cabazitaxel (a chemotherapy medication currently considered the standard of care for prostate cancer patients). The trial saw 200 men randomly assigned a treatment option, which was then delivered intravenously for six to ten cycles. Results from the study indicated that Lu-PSMA reduced the risk of disease progression or death by 37% compared to those on cabazitaxel. It also had fewer adverse effects and showed significant improvements in quality of life.

There is no question that Australian medical scientists are leading the way with prostate cancer research and development. Treatments like Lu-PSMA allow prostate cancer cells to be targeted with a precision never thought possible - regardless of where the cancer may have spread or metastasised within the body. This ground-breaking treatment was FDA-approved in March of this year.

In Australia, Lu-PSMA treatment will set you back AUD $10,000 a round. Which, while much cheaper than treatments offered in countries around the world (in the USA, Lu-PSMA costs about $60,000 a round), it's still too expensive to be accessible for many men. Movember is working with the Australian Government, the Australasian Association of Nuclear Medicine Specialists (AANMS), and advisory groups to help get this treatment onto a Medicare Benefit listing so that more Australian men can access this life-saving care when they need it.

Jane Fisher, Movember's Global Director of Cancer Research and Clinical Trials says, “The benefits that Lu-PSMA can offer men with aggressive prostate cancer is truly remarkable. The treatment has been shown to shrink cancer cells, improve pain, delay the time it takes for cancer to grow again, improve quality of life, and help men live longer lives with their families. The fact that it can be delivered with such minimal side effects, is a true testament to the talent of the clinicians and researchers who have been working tirelessly to bring this medicine into the Australian market.”

In Australia, 1 in 5 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, so the need for advancements in imaging and therapeutics has never been so great. PSMA-targeted therapies like Lu-PSMA will become the gold standard of treatment for men living with prostate cancer, and studies are already underway to test the effectiveness of Lu-PSMA at earlier stages of the disease, and in combination with other treatments such as immunotherapy.

Professor Michael Hofman, nuclear medicine physician and Director of Prostate Cancer Theranostics and Imaging Centre of Excellence (ProsTIC) at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre says, "This year, thanks to results of Movember-funded research, the Australian government provided Medicare funding for PSMA imaging. This technology has revolutionised the way prostate cancer is detected and identified within the body. There is now an urgent need to provide funding for PSMA therapy, which not only improves the longevity of life for men living with prostate cancer but also their quality of life."

Since 2003, Movember is proud to have invested more than AUS $623 million globally into prostate cancer research and development. Funding 633 biomedical research projects and establishing the world's largest network of prostate cancer patient registries, in an effort to harness the real-world experience of men living with prostate cancer, to better inform treatment and care.

Movember's funding into biomedical research has also contributed to some of the most lifesaving treatments and tests currently available for men. PSMA PET scan imaging has improved the way prostate cancer is detected and treated, proving more effective in pinpointing tumours in the prostate and body. In July 2022, the Australian Government funded PSMA PET scan imaging through Medicare, for men with high-risk prostate cancer. Without this funding, patients would have to pay significant out-of-pocket costs for a test.

Over the past 20 years, prostate cancer incidence has risen significantly globally - largely due to an increase in PSA testing. However, mortality rates for prostate cancer have almost universally declined, thanks to some incredible advancements in testing, treatment, and early detection. New medical interventions like PSMA PET scan and Lu-PSMA will help men to live longer lives, with far fewer and less severe side effects. They are two of the most significant breakthroughs we have seen in the management of advanced prostate cancer in the 21st century.

You can help Movember fund more lifesaving programs like this by donating to Your dough will save a Bro.