Scan can tell whether a cancer drug is working within days

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Cara McGoogan From:

Scanning technology could be used to reveal if a cancer drug is working within just days of a patient’s treatment beginning.

The scanning technique, which has been tested this week on the first cancer patient in Europe, can track a patient’s progress and give them more personalised care by analysing what treatments are working.

The metabolic imaging trial is underway at at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

“The new method 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,” said Dr Ferdia Gallagher, a radiologist at the University of Cambridge.

A history of discoveries that have brought us closer to curing cancer

Radiotherapy first used to treat cervical cancer

First link made between sun and skin cancer

Proof of a link between smoking and lung cancer first published

First chemotherapy drug, methotrexate, used to treat a rare tumor called choriocarcinoma

Discovery of the first human cancer virus

First drug for testicular cancer developed, now 95 per cent of men with it survive

The first ‘monoclonal antibody’ or targeted therapy approved by the Federal Drug Administration (later examples include Herceptin for breast cancer and Avastin for colorectal, lung and othercancers)

The first breast cancer genes BRAC-1 and BRAC-2 discovered

The cervical cancer vaccine immunisation programme begins in the UK

Trials show ‘flexi-scope’ screening could prevent a third of bowel cancers

International Cancer Genome Consortium formed to map the genetic faults behind 50 types of cancer.

Trial finds taking the drug anastrazole daily could halve the risk of breast cancer in high risk older women

Scientists build nanoparticles that act as ‘Trojan Horse’ vessels that ferry chemotherapy drugs direct to cancers. Two breast cancer drugs are shown to shrink or eliminate tumours in 11 days. Professor Swanton’s research shows how our own immune cells can be used to cure ‘hopeless case’ secondary or metastasised cancers

How it works

Doctors injected the patient with a glucose product called pyruvte and then tracked it as it travelled around the patient’s body.

The pyruvate was labelled with a non-radioactive form of carbon called C-13. When combined, the solution is 10,000 times more likely to be detected in an MRI scan.
In the MRI scanner doctors could see how quickly the pyruvate is broken down by the cancer cells, giving them an indication of how active those cells are. Active cells are indicative of the cancer drugs being ineffective.
Using this method, doctors can make an earlier call over whether a treatment is likely to be effective or not.

The Cancer Research UK Institute in Cambridge is the first place outside of North America to test the scans on a patient.

“We hope that it will soon help improve treatment by putting to an end patients being given treatments that aren’t working for them,” said Kevin Brindle, a professor who works with Cancer Research UK. “Each person’s cancer is different and this technique could help us tailor a patient’s treatment more quickly than before.”