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First FDA-Approved Molecular Targeted Therapy for Metastatic Prostate Cancer Now Available at Hoag Family Cancer Institute

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., March 29, 2022 — Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian welcomed last week’s announcement by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration that the FDA approved the first prostate specific membrane antigen (PSMA)-targeted radiotherapy for metastatic prostate cancer. The agent, lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan (Pluvicto), delivers radiation directly to prostate cancer cells and has been shown to prolong survival and reduce complications in patients with metastatic prostate cancer. Hoag’s Molecular Imaging & Therapy program was the first in Orange County to offer PSMA-targeted radiotherapy to patients with metastatic prostate cancer in clinical trials and now offers access to this newly FDA-approved therapy to patients. 

Pluvicto brings cell-killing radiation to tumors by targeting PSMA, a molecule on the surface of prostate cancer cells. The FDA’s approval ushers in a new era of PSMA diagnostics and therapies that could hold significant promise to thousands of men facing metastatic prostate cancer, said Gary A. Ulaner, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.N.M, James & Pamela Muzzy Endowed Chair in Molecular Imaging and Therapy and the director of Molecular Imaging and Therapy for the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.

“Hoag is at the tip of the spear, offering the most advanced therapies for patients with metastatic prostate cancer, such as Pluvicto,” Dr. Ulaner said. “Hoag was the first site in Orange County to use PSMA-targeted therapy in clinical trials prior to FDA approval. With the FDA approval of this agent for metastatic prostate cancer, anyone who could benefit from this treatment can now come to Hoag and receive this as their standard of care.”

Through its robust Molecular Imaging & Therapy clinical trial offerings, Hoag has extensive experience using targeted molecular agents to diagnose and treat a variety of cancer types, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, myeloma and lung cancer.

Dr. Ulaner, who came to Hoag from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a molecular imaging and therapy expert, explains that molecular medicine works like a lock and a key. Every cancer cell has a protein on its surface that can be thought of as a lock. Molecular agents designed to bind specifically to those locks are the keys. When bound to radiation emitting isotopes, those keys can either help detect or destroy cancer cells wherever they are in the body, leaving neighboring healthy cells mostly unharmed, said Dr. Ulaner.

Dual board-certified in radiology and nuclear medicine, Dr. Ulaner is an internationally recognized expert in the use of targeted imaging to help direct focused cancer therapies and was recently elected the 2022-2023 president for the American College of Nuclear Medicine (ACNM). He leads several National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trials in molecular imaging and therapeutics, including two active NIH R01 grants. Dr. Ulaner has received more than $8 million in extramural funding, including community philanthropy, which helps advance translational research and supports Dr. Ulaner’s efforts to train the next generation of molecular imaging and therapy experts.

Dr. Ulaner said Hoag is actively studying and recruiting eligible candidates for phase II clinical trials of agents similar to Pluvicto, and he expects the FDA’s approval of Pluvicto will cast a brighter light on these promising therapies.

“Over time, there will likely be improvements in second- and third-generation agents. It is important to continue developing better therapies,” Dr. Ulaner said. “We are offering the same therapies that are being offered at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the world’s other leading cancer institutions. Patients in Orange County are often relieved to learn that they have access to these therapies right in their own backyard.”

Jeffrey Yoshida, M.D., Benjamin & Carmela Du Endowed Chair in Urologic Oncology and program director of urologic oncology at Hoag Family Cancer Institute, is thrilled that this innovation is now available to his patients. “PSMA-targeted radiotherapy is a total game changer for Hoag’s cancer program and for men of Orange County with advanced prostate cancer,” he said. 

Dr Yoshida has worked closely with Dr Ulaner to enroll many of his patients in PSMA clinical trials.  “My patients who have participated in Hoag’s PSMA-targeted trials are so excited to have access to both this cutting-edge technology and to Dr. Ulaner’s expertise,” he said. “While results of these trials are still very preliminary, our expectation is that these men will live longer and live better.”

For more information on the clinical trials available at Hoag, visit


Hoag is a nonprofit, regional health care delivery network in Orange County, California, that treats more than 30,000 inpatients and 460,000 outpatients annually. Hoag consists of two acute-care hospitals – Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, which opened in 1952, and Hoag Hospital Irvine, which opened in 2010 – in addition to nine health centers and 14 urgent care centers. Hoag has invested $261 million in programs and services to support the underserved community within the past five years, including areas like mental health, homelessness, transportation for seniors, education, and support for single mothers. Hoag is a designated Magnet® hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Hoag offers a comprehensive blend of health care services that includes six institutes providing specialized services in the following areas: cancer, digestive health, heart and vascular, neurosciences, women’s health, and orthopedics through Hoag’s affiliate, Hoag Orthopedic Institute, which consists of an orthopedic hospital and four ambulatory surgical centers. In the 2021-2022 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals Rankings, Hoag is the highest ranked hospital in Orange County and the only OC hospital ranked in the Top 10 in California. For an unprecedented 23 years, residents of Orange County have chosen Hoag as one of the county’s best hospitals in a local newspaper survey. Visit for more information.