[ASC-media] Is your treatment working? Cancer scanner pinpoints dividing lung cancer cells

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Tue Jul 28 03:47:47 CEST 2009

A team of Victorian researchers have discovered how to track if lung tumours respond during a course of treatment. 

Trials with five patients revealed that some tumours responded quickly to treatment while others continued to grow. A larger trial is now underway with twenty patients. 

The new technique could transform lung cancer treatment. 

“At present there is no reliable way of monitoring the effectiveness of therapy in killing lung cancer cells during treatment,” says Sarah Everitt, the lead investigator for the study, a PhD student in medical imaging & radiation sciences at Monash University, and a radiation therapist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

“We hope this information will assist us to tailor treatment according to each individual patient.” 

“It’s also important because, if only a few cells survive of the millions that make up a tumour, then we have failed to cure the patient.” 

The study used a combined PET/CT scanner (positron emission tomography/computed tomography) scanner and a novel radioactive tracer called FLT or in full…18F-3′-deoxy-3′-fluoro-l-thymidine. FLT targets cells that are rapidly dividing. Once injected, it can highlight cancers that appear not to be responding to therapy. “At present, there is no other imaging method that can achieve this,” says Sarah. 

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in Australia. The typical time of survival of patients after diagnosis is less than two years, so improved treatments are needed. 

“If we observe a particularly aggressive tumour that grows rapidly during treatment, we can adapt treatment delivery based on the individual’s response. This might mean administering the treatment more quickly, or giving a higher radiation dose. Overall, we hope this will improve outcomes and survival of patients with lung cancer and possibly patients with other cancers,” says Sarah. 

“These scans may also provide us with information that suggests some cancers are not responding to therapy. These patients could then be switched to a different treatment without delay.” 

The results have also demonstrated how bone marrow behaves during radiation treatment. “One can easily see that bone marrow is extremely sensitive to radiation. Changes are observed after only one day’s therapy in a course of six weeks. Because bone marrow produces blood cells, the FLT PET scans could be highly valuable in monitoring patients having large areas of their body irradiated. There may also other scope for these scans, such as monitoring the effects of accidental radiation exposure”.

Sarah and her colleagues at Peter Mac, including Associate Professors Michael Mac Manus and David Ball, Professors Rod Hicks and Tomas Kron, and Dr Michal Schneider-Kolsky from Monash University, have now been granted $250,000 by the Victorian Cancer Agency to continue this study.

Sarah Everitt is one of 15 early-career scientists presenting their research to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program sponsored by the Federal Government. 

For further information, contact Sarah Everitt on 0419 546 639

For Fresh Science contact: Sarah Brooker on 0413 332 489 and Niall Byrne on 0417 131 977 or niall at freshscience.org <mailto:niall at freshscience.org> .

Further details at www.freshscience.org.au <http://www.freshscience.org.au> 



Niall Byrne


Science in Public

26 Railway Street South, Altona Vic 3018


ph +61 (3) 9398 1416 or 0417 131 977

niall at scienceinpublic.com.au <mailto:niall at scienceinpublic.com.au> 


Full contact details at www.scienceinpublic.com <http://www.scienceinpublic.com/> 


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