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Imaging techniques to benefit cancer treatment

Tuesday 22nd September 2015
New research has shown that imaging techniques can help to improve results from chemotherapy treatment. Image Credit: luchschen
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A team at the University of Manchester has identified a way to potentially improve cancer treatment using imaging techniques. 

The researchers found a method that is able to predict which patients with head or neck cancer will benefit most from chemotherapy. 

Patients with this form of cancer will often be given pre-treatment induction chemotherapy to limit the spread of cancer before they either receive surgery or radiotherapy. However this method doesn't work as well if the person has poor blood flow.

Building on previous research, which found that CT scans could be used to assess tumour blood flow, the team wanted to see whether MRI scans could be used to predict which patients would benefit the most from induction chemotherapy.

Researchers at the University of Manchester and the Christie NHS Foundation Trust, which are both part of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, used an imaging technique to better look at the blood flow and structure of a patient's tumour.

Professor Catharine West, lead author of the study that was published in the journal Oral Oncology, said: "It's also important to identify those patients who are unlikely to respond to induction therapy so that we can skip ahead in the treatment pathway and offer them potentially more effective treatments and hopefully improve their outcome."

Using an imaging technique known as dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE-MRI), the team was able to inject a contrast agent tracer into the veins while they were having a number of MRI scans taken. 

They found that the blood flow of a tumour before the patient received induction therapy could predict response to treatment. In their paper, the researchers report that those with the highest blood flow were the most likely to respond to treatment.

Jonathan Bernstein, a co-author on the paper, said both delivery and effectiveness of treatment seemed to be better in tumours that had a higher blood flow. However, he added that more work was needed to determine how patients with lower blood flow could be better treated. 

Written by James Puckle

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