days whether or not their cancer medication is working, and it has been tested on a cancer patient in the UK for the first time.
Scientists at Addenbrooke's Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals, have started a trial using a new imaging technique to detect molecular changes inside cancer patients. The patients in the trial have a wide range of cancer types.
The trial is being funded by several organisations including the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award and Cancer Research UK, and it is the first of its type outside of North America.
Getting a Better Picture of Inside the Body
The participants in the trial are being given medicines for treating cancer. Once they start their medication, they are given a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan after having an injection of pyruvate, a breakdown product of glucose. Cancer cells use glucose to produce energy in a slightly different way than healthy cells.
The pyruvate is labelled with a non-radioactive form of carbon called carbon 13 (C-13), making it 10,000 times more likely to be detected in the MRI scan.
After pyruvate is injected into the patient and it has had time to travel around the body, the MRI scan can show how quickly cancer cells break down pyruvate, and this measure of cell activity tells doctors how effective the patient's medicine has been at killing the cancer cells.
A Revolutionary Treatment for Refining Cancer Drug Treatment
This new technique could help doctors to see whether or not a cancer medicine is working within a day or two of a patient starting their treatment. The doctors would know early on if a medicine is working or if it should be stopped and a different one should be given instead.
Dr Emma Smith, Cancer Research UK's science information manager, explains, "Finding out early on whether cancer is responding to therapy could save patients months of treatment that isn't working for them."
The new imaging procedure would help cancer patients receive the best treatment for their cancer as quickly as possible. It may also potentially open new ways to detect cancer.
Professor Kevin Brindle, co-lead based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, explains, "we hope that it will soon help improve treatment by putting to an end patients being given treatments that aren't work for them." He continues:
"Each person's cancer is different and this technique could help us tailor a patient's treatment more quickly than before."
Dr Ferdia Gallagher, co-lead and consultant radiologist for Cambridge University Hospitals, explains, "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."
Dr Smith has also commented that the next stage of the trial "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."