PET scan

New imaging technique reveals cancer’s sleeper cells

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Monday, March 3, 2014 - 12:40 GMT Jump to Comments

A new scanning technique has been developed that can 'light up' cancer's sleeper cells, potentially warning patients and doctors of a relapse.

According to a study published in Cancer Research today, scientists at Imperial College London have developed a non-invasive scan that can detect dormant cancer cells in mice.

Currently most cancer treatments rely on targeting fast growing cells, leaving the dormant cells resistant to therapy. These cells can often be the reason for cancer retuning to a patient.

Cancer cells are able to enter a ‘sleeping’ state when they stop growing, and store energy for further use – at a higher rate than most normal healthy cells.

However, by utilising a radioactive molecule that can mimic the substance the human body uses to create energy, the researchers were able to measure the build up of these energy stores (known as glycogen) using positron emission tomography (PET).

Professor Eric Aboagye, senior author of the study said: “The ability of cancer cells to escape treatment by entering these dormant states has stymied progress for the treatment of numerous different cancers.

“This technique has immediate potential in the clinic to assess how well drugs are working for patients, and to warn of potential relapses post-treatment”.

Previous methods to examine energy stores in cancer cells required invasive techniques that involved procedures such as biopsies. These methods were only able to sample a small section of the tumour.

Nell Barrie, Cancer Research UK’s senior science communications manager, said: “This method shows real promise as a tool for telling doctors how much of the cancer could possibly be escaping treatment.

"At the moment this method has only been used in mice, but this sort of technique can be adapted for the clinic to help save more lives".

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