A new scanning technique that could help doctors to see whether cancer drugs are working on individual patients is being tested.
Researchers hope that the technique could save time by matching patients with the most effective treatment for their cancer. The study of the metabolic imaging technique is taking place at the Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.
‘The scanning technique allows a doctor to determine the efficacy of cancer drugs at an early stage, saving patients time on drugs that do not work.’
The technique uses a breakdown product of glucose called pyruvate, which is injected into patients and tracked as it enters the cells.
Pyruvate is labeled with a non-radioactive form of carbon, called carbon 13 (C-13). The molecule is very easy to detect in an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. The scan monitors the time taken by cancer cells to break pyruvate down - a measure of how active the cells still are. This gives doctors an idea about the efficacy of the cancer drugs. The more active the cancer cells, the less effective the drug used to kill them.
Researchers hope that this could lead to more personalized treatments for cancer patients. This technique helps monitor the efficacy of drug therapies at an early stage, potentially saving patients time on drugs that do not work.
The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute is the first place to test the technique on patients outside North America.
Dr Ferdia Gallagher, the honorary consultant radiologist at the University of Cambridge, said, "Studies on animals had shown promising results, and it was time to try the technique out on humans. This new technique could potentially mean that doctors will find out much more quickly if treatment is working for their patient instead of waiting to see if a tumor shrinks."
This would normally take weeks or months to discover.There could also be side-effects from the wrong treatment, which could be avoided, as well as money wasted on expensive cancer drugs which are not effective, he said.
Dr Emma Smith, the science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said, "The next steps for this study will be collecting and analyzing the results to find out if this imaging technology provides an accurate early snapshot of how well drugs destroy tumors."