Waging War on Cancer With More Advanced Scanning Technology


A revolutionary imaging technique capable of identifying whether a drug is working within just days of treatment has successfully been used on a caner patient in Europe. The pioneering technology is currently being trialled in the UK and is hoped to provide a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer and provide clues as to how future treatments and drugs can improved.

The research is being undertaken at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of the Cambridge University Hospitals group and is funded by national cancer charity, Cancer Research UK. Scientists are hoping to use the new metabolic imaging technology to scan patients suffering with a wide range of cancers in order to investigate the effectiveness of treatment. As a result, they aim to be able to advise on whether an alternative approach might be more appropriate much earlier into treatment thus potentially saving lives.

Cancer UK has suggested that the rapid scan technology will enable doctors to monitor molecular changes in patients, fundamentally changing the way mutations are mapped. The imaging technique could thus open up new avenues for cancer detection and treatment, as well ushering in a new, more personalised approach within cancer care – significantly improving the experience and outcomes for patients.

The revolutionary technology involves breaking down and labelling pyruvate, a simple alpha-keto acidic compound. It is then visible during a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan where pyruvate is injected in the patient’s bloodstream and monitored as it moves around the body and enters cells, for example. As a result, the scan can track the speed as which cancer cells break the alpha-keto compound down. The process stimulates cancer cells to behave in a manner alike to that during drug treatment and doctors can thus determine how effective a drug treatment has been.

Professor Kevin Brindle, Co-lead Scientist at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said he and the team were excited to be working on such a pioneering project – the first of its kind outside the US and one of only three in the world. He added that he hoped it would prevent patients in the future from being treated ineffectively and would provide a means with which to acknowledge both the range of cancers and variety of manifestations across patients.

Dr Emma Smith, Science Information Manager at Cancer Research UK was equally positive about the potential of the imaging technology, saying that it could save patients from undergoing months of unnecessary or ineffective treatment.

Scientists are currently analysing the result of the recent experiment featuring the state-of-the-art scanning system to ascertain its accuracy as well as viability for future cancer care.

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