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BIOCARE — Result In Brief

Project ID: 505785
Country: Sweden

Eliminating false responses in tumour detection

EU-funded researchers sought to consolidate the latest research on cancer-specific imaging agents used with positron emission tomography (PET). Development of better tumour markers should facilitate earlier detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Eliminating false responses in tumour detection
PET is rapidly becoming the tool of choice for diagnosis, staging and treatment of cancer. Using very small amounts of tracers (radioactive positrons or positively charged particles similar to or combined with biological molecules such as glucose), PET produces coloured three-dimensional (3D) images of body function called PET scans.

The most commonly used tracer for cancer imaging with PET is the glucose analogue fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG). Its demonstrated high uptake by metabolically-active malignant lesions (requiring glucose for energy) and low uptake by benign ones makes it generally a specific and sensitive marker of cancerous tissue.

However, despite the excellent performance of FDG, the types and stages of cancers and the relationship between origin and metastasis site are quite diverse. False positives or negatives can occur for certain combinations of these.

For example, bone metastases from prostate cancer are not well imaged with FDG nor are brain tumours that can be masked by the generally high metabolic activity of the brain under normal conditions. The need for more specific and sensitive tracers is of utmost importance to clear diagnoses and patient well-being.

European researchers initiated the ‘Molecular imaging for biologically optimised cancer therapy’ (Biocare) project to develop new more sensitive and specific tracers for use with PET in cancer diagnosis and monitoring.

Scientists focused on clinical testing and evaluation of a number of more specific molecular tracers including amino acid analogues (the building blocks of proteins), small tumour-binding peptides (short chains of amino acids), aptamers (DNA fragments) and nanoparticles.

Consolidation of recent research in alternatives to FDG for radiotherapy and chemotherapy response should enhance treatment and thus patient survival and quality of life.

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