The study from University of North Carolina Health Care found that by using two non-invasive technologies, a patient’s response to therapy can be detected earlier than by relying on tumor volume changes.
The research, published in Technology in Cancer Research and Treatment, involved experiments using ultrasonic molecular imaging (USMI) and Dynamic Contrast Enhanced-Perfusion Imaging (DCE-PI) to measure response to therapy for pancreatic cancer.
In a statement Paul Dayton, PhD, senior author said, ‘What we found is that using two non-invasive technologies, we can detect response to therapy earlier than by relying on tumor volume changes.
‘Having new non-invasive, inexpensive technologies available to measure response to therapy earlier during the course of treatment would be a significant advance in the ability to tailor a person’s treatment to improve outcomes.’
Dr. Dayton, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, worked with Jen Jen Yeh, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery and Pharmacology, to evaluate the imaging technologies on human pancreatic cancer in a pre-clinical model.
USMI is said to have the ability to non-invasively characterise the biologic processes at the cellular and molecular levels. It does this through the use of targeted contrast agents, which are markers that bind to specific proteins expressed on cancer cells within the body. These contrast agents enable a standard ultrasound system to detect signals from cancer cells that would otherwise be undetectable.
Ultrasound DCE-PI is a method used to non-invasively monitor the blood flow in the microcirculation. Since growing tumors require abnormally increased blood flow, changes in blood vessel structure or density can provide information regarding tumor malignancy.
The team used a drug that inhibits a protein specific to tumors. They then used the imaging tools to measure the response of two different tumors, one known to respond to the drug therapy, and a second known not to respond.
The results indicated that USMI was able to detect molecular signs of tumor response to therapy after two days. A change in blood flow in the tumor was observed to detect response after day 14 using DCE-PI.
Over the same period, standard volume measurements were not able to detect therapeutic response, and prior studies suggested that volume measurements do not become indicative of response until approximately 28 days.
These methods demonstrated a notable improvement in the early identification of tumor response to therapy, using contrast enhanced ultrasound imaging.
Although the contrast agents for USMI are not yet available in the United States, they are currently in clinical trials in Europe for cancer imaging.