A new scanning technique is currently being tested in the UK with the hope that the innovation will provide an early indication of how well cancer drugs are working on individual patients.
Early diagnosis of cancer is considered incredibly important in treating the deadly condition, and equally understanding whether treatments are working effectively can literally be the difference between life and death.
The hope with the new scan is that time could be saved by matching patients with the most effective treatment for their cancer.
Addenbrooke’s Hospital is currently participating in this new research, with a study of the metabolic imaging technique in question being carried out at the institution in Cambridge.
Experts believe that it could lead to more personalised treatments for cancer patients.
The technique is focused around a product referred to as pyruvate.
Pyruvate is injected into the anatomy of patients and tracked as it enters cells around the body, with the molecules ultimately providing information on the efficacy of cancer treatments.
Because it is labelled with a non-radioactive form of carbon, pyruvate is very easy to detect in an MRI scan.
It is possible for MRI scans to monitor how quickly the substance is broken down by cancer cells, thus providing doctors with a strong impression of how active cells are within the human body.
The more active the cancer cells, the less effective the drug used to kill them.
It is hoped that once this test is completed that it will be possible to roll the technique out to the NHS in general, potentially saving patients time and money on ineffective drugs, and in many cases saving lives as well.
This new technique had previously been tested in North America, but the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute is the first organisation to implement the technique on patients in Europe.
Dr Ferdia Gallagher, honorary consultant radiologist at the University of Cambridge, stated that early results conducted with animals had displayed promising results, and that human tests could and should follow in the foreseeable future.
“This new technique could potentially mean that doctors will find out much more quickly if a treatment is working for their patient instead of waiting to see if a tumour shrinks,” Gallagher commented.
By contrast, delegates asserted that such discoveries would take weeks or months to unearth with the existing systems in place.
Dr Emma Smith, science information manager at Cancer Research UK, was equally optimistic about the future of this new scanning method, but warned that there is a significant way to go before the innovation could be approved for wider utilisation.
“The next steps for this study will be collecting and analysing the results to find out if this imaging technology provides an accurate early snapshot of how well drugs destroy tumours.”