Alberta Cancer Foundation

Bettering Prostate Cancer Outcomes with the PSMA PET

The PSMA PET will change how prostate cancer is detected and treated in Alberta. This incredibly accurate scan will uncover details of an individual’s cancer diagnosis that are usually undetectable through other mediums. Having emerged from its clinical trial stage, the PSMA PET scanned its first four patients at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre in Calgary, this week.  Clinical trials are crucial to the progression of medical care, so naturally, it was all smiles in the nuclear medicine lab as everyone knew the importance of this long-awaited feat.

PSMA is a radiotracer for imaging prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) in prostate cancer. Short-lived, radioactive atoms which, when attached to molecules, act as probes that bind to specific biomarkers for cancer. With the probes in place and using PET imaging, these “metabolic spies” identify and track cancer cells to monitor tumour growth and assess the response to treatments.

PSMA PET patient
Rick Simpson, one of the four patients to undergo the PSMA PET scan.

In their individual rooms, the four patients were injected with a radioligand – a substance that helps detect cancer during the scan. Rick Simpson was one of these four patients.

On January 30, 2023, Rick travelled from his hometown of Medicine Hat to Calgary to participate in the PSMA PET.

Seven months earlier, Rick Simpson was diagnosed with prostate cancer after his PSA tests reached abnormally high levels.

Rick had suspicions of cancer, as he was experiencing a couple of symptoms. However, it did not make the news any easier to hear.

After his diagnosis, Rick asked for a referral to Dr. Yip, medical oncologist at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. Rick didn’t hesitate to say yes when Dr. Yip’s team reached out to him, asking if he would like to participate in the PSMA PET as part of an ongoing trial.

For Rick, this PSMA PET means providing him with a clear understanding of his diagnosis. It means the best treatment option will be uncovered for his individual case. It means hope for his future.

Expressing gratitude to the Alberta Cancer Foundation donors who made this project possible, Rick states, “Thank you very much. It will help a lot. It will save lives. And it will cut waiting times by a long shot.”

The Tom Baker Cancer Centre is the home of some incredible minds in oncology and radiation. When Dr. Steven Yip and Dr. Denise Chan came together five years to push the needle in Calgary for prostate cancer detection and treatment, they knew they had much work ahead of them.

Dr. Yip and Dr. Chan in front of the PET scan.


“This PSMA PET, to me, is going to be ground-breaking for imaging. We are able to identify disease and where it has spread much better than CT, MRI and Bone Scan. It is going to be a game-changer.” – Dr. Denise Chan, Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Specialist, Tom Baker Cancer Centre

“This [PSMA PET] is right up the alley of how to better identify the disease, how best to treat it, and the extent of the disease… it will impact the care that we offer patients, and it really advances us to a world-class level.” – Dr. Steven Yip

Even the radiology technologist on-site, Chantelle, was all smiles as she expressed her excitement for this ground-breaking detection technology. She stated, “It is exciting that they can do stuff like this in Calgary!”

PSMA PET Radiology Technologist
Chantelle, Medical Radiology Technician.


Thanks to the support of Alberta Cancer Foundations donors, the Edmonton Radiopharmaceutical centre, and each patient’s participation in this trial, the PSMA PET scan will better the prostate cancer outcomes in Alberta.

Learn how the Alberta Cancer Foundation supports all cancer clinical trials in Alberta.