Prostate-specific membrane antigen as a target for cancer imaging and therapy

Q J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2015 Sep;59(3):241-68. Epub 2015 Jul 24.


The prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) is a molecular target whose use has resulted in some of the most productive work toward imaging and treating prostate cancer over the past two decades. A wide variety of imaging agents extending from intact antibodies to low-molecular-weight compounds permeate the literature. In parallel there is a rapidly expanding pool of antibody-drug conjugates, radiopharmaceutical therapeutics, small-molecule drug conjugates, theranostics and nanomedicines targeting PSMA. Such productivity is motivated by the abundant expression of PSMA on the surface of prostate cancer cells and within the neovasculature of other solid tumors, with limited expression in most normal tissues. Animating the field is a variety of small-molecule scaffolds upon which the radionuclides, drugs, MR-detectable species and nanoparticles can be placed with relative ease. Among those, the urea-based agents have been most extensively leveraged, with expanding clinical use for detection and more recently for radiopharmaceutical therapy of prostate cancer, with surprisingly little toxicity. PSMA imaging of other cancers is also appearing in the clinical literature, and may overtake FDG for certain indications. Targeting PSMA may provide a viable alternative or first-line approach to managing prostate and other cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface / chemistry*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Drug Design
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Nanomedicine / methods
  • Nanomedicine / trends
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / chemistry
  • Theranostic Nanomedicine
  • Urea / chemistry


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Urea
  • FOLH1 protein, human
  • Glutamate Carboxypeptidase II