United States laboratory research has potentially opened the door to more sensitive PET scans for cancer.
The new method attached a radioactive molecule to specialized proteins that can recognize different types of cells.
According to an expert, this method could lead to a more precise way of visualizing tumors inside cancer patients.
Positron emission tomography, PET, is routinely used by doctors to visualize cancer and monitor the extent of a patient’s disease.
PET scans rely on giving patients a radioactive molecule, or tracer, most commonly a form of sugar called 18F-2-deoxyfluoroglucose or FDG.
FDG lights up cells that are burning sugars particularly quickly, such as cancer cells.
Several important issues have hampered the progress. For example, FDG is difficult to chemically link to other molecules, FDG is unstable and it loses radioactivity quickly, therefore even successful attempts to chemically alter it need to be quick to carry out.
The team tested this new technique in mice with pancreatic cancer.
By using their modified FDG-antibodies, researchers were able to successfully use PET scans to track immune cells as they moved to the tumors located around the mice’s bodies.
Researchers were even able to spot even very tiny tumor that might not ordinarily be spotted by conventional scans.
Although this technique is only in the early stages of development, researchers believe it could ultimately be combined with conventional PET scans to offer new information about a patien’ts disease.
It is particularly interesting that this new technique could be used to create new imaging systems tailored to different types of cancer or potentially even patients’ individual tumors.
However, there is still work to do to translate this important laboratory development into something that can be reliably used in the clinic to help improve things for patients with cancer.