Theranostics at ARA

Theranostics is a combination of the words therapeutics and diagnostics. Theranostic medicines are beginning to revolutionize cancer treatment and more therapies are on their way. Dr. Simon Trubek, a molecular radiologist with ARA Diagnostic Imaging, discusses this leading-edge therapy with KEYE-TV’s Trevor Scott on CBS Austin’s ‘We Are Austin.’

(Trevor Scott) Welcome back to We Are Austin. Texas medicine takes a really big step forward in treating cancer. ARA Diagnostic Imaging is opening a new Theranostics Center, specializing in the treatment of cancer, using the targeted methods of molecular radiology. It sounds fascinating.

Theranostics is a relatively new term in the medical world. It’s a combination of the words ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnostics.’ And today to kind of talk about all of this, we’re chatting with Dr. Simon Trubek, a molecular radiologist at ARA Diagnostic Imaging, about what theranostics is and what it means for cancer patients, and how ARA is gearing up to deliver these truly transformative treatments.

Good morning to you doctor. It’s great to see you.

(Dr. Simon Trubek) Nice to be back. Thanks for having me.

(Trevor) Our pleasure, this sounds very exciting. Let’s kind of start right at the top. What is theranostics?

(Dr. Trubek) So theranostics, like you were saying, is a combination of two words, a portmanteau of ‘therapy’ and ‘diagnostics.’ So it’s a way where we diagnose disease and if we can see the disease, then we can target it and treat it afterwards.

(Trevor) Absolutely, this sounds-

(Dr. Trubek) That’s essentially what it is.

(Trevor) Really a promising treatment, it sounds like. Can you give us a specific example?

(Dr. Trubek) Of course. Right now, what’s available is something new on the horizon for prostate cancer specifically that I would like to talk about. And the imaging agent is called PSMA, prostate-specific membrane antigen. And we administer this radiopharmaceutical into the patient, the patient goes into a machine like a CAT scan machine, but it’s called a PET/CT machine. We image the entire body and we identify where the disease is, whether it’s in the gland itself, where it starts, or if it’s in the bones or anywhere, anywhere where it ends up, we can identify, you know, the smallest cells.

(Trevor) Wow.

(Dr. Trubek) So it essentially kind of almost glows and then we can identify and proceed to therapy afterwards.

(Trevor) Wow, so there is, of course, hence the name, a therapeutic part to PSMA? Can you chat about that?

(Dr. Trubek) Absolutely, so once we image the patient and identify the extent of the disease, we can treat the patient with a very similar radiopharmaceutical. It’s changed out from one that is used for imaging to one that’s used for therapy.

And this agent will actually target those cells specifically. Once it gets there, it’ll destroy the tumor cells and not touch the normal cells that are, you know, surrounding the body. So you don’t get the complications typically seen with systemic chemotherapy, like hair loss and other things. So it’s really gonna be transformative for the patient because it’ll change these disease processes to just chronic, to more like chronic illnesses like diabetes or high blood pressure. It’s really gonna be helpful.

(Trevor) Wow, transformational is a great word. It really sounds like that is changing the game.

(Dr. Trubek) Absolutely.

(Trevor) And one of the things I like best about our ARA discussions, is really you provide a great patient perspective. So as a patient, what is it like getting a theranostics treatment?

(Dr. Trubek) It’s really straightforward. You come into our specially designed therapeutic center, have a private room, an IV will be set up, and the infusion will be initiated.

And it’s, it’s a very comfortable setting. The patient can watch TV or, you know, do computer work or whatever they choose to or take a nap. And then that’s it.

Then the patient will be discharged home with some special instructions.

And then return four times, approximately every six to eight weeks.

(Trevor) Wow, I so appreciate how you always are putting patient comfort levels first at ARA. It sounds like you make that a pretty seamless process.

What is an infusion exactly? What is that?

(Dr. Trubek) So an infusion, it’s basically like getting an IV started just like you would for any basic procedure. And it’s just an IV drip with the actual radiopharmaceutical in the fluid. So it’s completely painless. It’s just a slow infusion of fluid medicine into the patient’s vein. It’s not perceptible to the patient at all. There’s no pain with the therapy.

(Trevor) And how long does the radiation stay in the body?

(Dr. Trubek) So the radiation stays in the body a small amount of time. It’s not anything to worry about. We give the patient specific instructions on what to do after the therapy is completed. It’s pretty basic.

You basically have to sleep in your own bed, avoid contact with other people and family members, and pets. But it’s very short-lived and very easy to do.

(Trevor) Good to know. And we discussed a little bit that we are kind of really just on the cusp of these amazing treatments.

What treatments are currently available at ARA?

(Dr. Trubek) So of course, we have iodine therapy for thyroid cancer. That’s a theranostics procedure and that’s been around for decades.

We have therapy for neuroendocrine tumors.

And of course, we have therapy for certain types of liver tumors.

What’s on the horizon and very exciting is prostate cancer therapy. And we expect, in short order, to have other therapies available for a variety of different other malignancies that are out there.

(Trevor) Well, these are exciting developments and it’s so great to have them here in Austin.

And we can’t wait to keep in touch with ARA as the additional theranostics treatments get FDA approval and are rolled out here in central Texas. It’s going to be a game-changer for sure.

Where can people go for more information about theranostics, the Theranostics Center?

(Dr. Trubek) You can always go to to find more information about these therapies or any other therapies or imaging that you may need.

(Trevor) Dr. Trubek, thank you so much for joining us today. This has been a fascinating conversation.

(Dr. Trubek) Of course.

(Trevor) We’re really excited about this development and I’m sure there are folks out there in Central Texas who are as well.

Thanks for being here.

(Dr. Trubek) Thanks for having me.

(Trevor) Our pleasure.

(Dr. Trubek) Talk to you soon.

(Trevor) Thank you. Stick around, there’s more We Are Austin coming right up.

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