Cancer scan shows ‘in days’ whether drug is working

The team will continue to collect and analyse results to see if the technology can provide and an accurate early snapshot of how well drugs destroy tumours. Picture: PA

The team will continue to collect and analyse results to see if the technology can provide and an accurate early snapshot of how well drugs destroy tumours. Picture: PA

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The first cancer patient in Europe has been scanned using a new imaging technique that could show doctors whether a drug is working for the patient within days of starting treatment.

The landmark trial, which is taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, could help to tailor patients’ treatments by pointing out almost immediately which drugs are not affecting their cancer.

It could mean doctors will find out quickly if treatment is working, instead of waiting to see if tumour shrinks

Dr FERDIA GALLAGHER

Scientists injected the unnamed patient with a breakdown product of glucose called pyruvate, labelled with a non-radioactive form of carbon, called carbon 13 (C-13).

This makes it 10,000 times more likely to be detected by a MRI scan so experts can track the molecule as it moves around the body.

The scan then monitors how quickly cancer cells break pyruvate down, showing doctors how active the cells are and whether or not a drug has been effective at killing them. This is the first time this technique has been tried in Europe.

Professor Kevin Brindle, co-lead based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: “We’re very excited to be the first group outside North America, and the third group world-wide, to test this with patients and we hope that it will soon help improve treatment by putting to an end patients being given treatments that aren’t working for them.

“Each person’s cancer is different and this technique could help us tailor a patient’s treatment more quickly than before.”

Experts hope the scan could allow doctors to map molecular changes in patients, opening up potential new ways to detect cancer and monitor the effects of treatment.

Dr Ferdia Gallagher, from Cambridge University’s department of radiology, said: “It’s fantastic that we can now try this technique in patients.

“We hope this will progress the way cancer treatment is given and make therapy more effective in the 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.”

The team will continue to collect and analyse results to see if the technology can provide and an accurate early snapshot of how well drugs destroy tumours.

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