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Imaging Test Detects Aggressive and Treatment-resistant Cancers
Scientists have developed a new imaging test that could enable doctors to identify more dangerous tumours before they spread around the body – and tailor treatment accordingly.
Teams at The University of Manchester and The Institute of Cancer Research, London describe detailed development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to map areas of oxygen deprivation within tumours.
Lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, is often a sign that a cancer is growing aggressively. Hypoxia also stimulates the growth of blood vessels within tumors, which in turn can fuel the spread of cancer cells to other parts of the body.
The new study could also lead to more effective radiotherapy planning to boost the doses of X-rays delivered to dangerous, hypoxic areas within tumors, and new ways of monitoring whether radiotherapy or some drugs are working.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, was funded by a range of organizations including Cancer Research UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and The Wellcome Trust.
Researchers used an emerging technology called oxygen-enhanced MRI to produce maps of hypoxia within tumors grown by implanting cancer cells into mice. The technology is now being further developed through clinical studies of cancer patients.
Oxygen-enhanced MRI works by monitoring alterations in image intensity caused by changes in the concentration of dissolved oxygen in blood plasma and tissue fluid, during inhalation of pure oxygen gas. Some tissues take up the extra oxygen more rapidly than others, which show as more intensely changing regions under the MRI scan.
The researchers predicted that images of hypoxic tumor areas would change intensity less dramatically than better oxygenated areas.
They followed a several-step process to prove their MRI technique worked at detecting areas of hypoxia, beginning with the imaging of tumors grown from a cell line of kidney cancer cells known to lead to highly hypoxic tumors.
They then imaged a slower-growing kidney tumor type and tumors grown from a line of bowel cancer cells, to show their technique also worked for less hypoxic tumors.
They cross-referenced their images against samples from the tumors viewed under the microscope to confirm their findings from the scans.
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