Potential boost for diagnosis and treatment of cancer

Separate collaborative breakthroughs involving the Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in the US could lead to timely, non-invasive diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility are working on a tool that could improve pre-operative and intra-operative detection of cancerous lesions; whilst a team from the Riverside Diagnostic and Breast Imaging Centre are using a tiny, non-invasive camera to determine the outcome of mammograms.

The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility tool, developed in collaboration with Hampton University, Duke University, East Carolina Medical School and Riverside Regional Medical Centre, is a hand-held tool, which could be used either before or during surgery and makes use of special particle detecting devices.

Prior to surgery to remove a cancerous lesion, the patient is injected intravenously with a metabolic tracer, called FDG, which acts like glucose. The higher metabolic rate of the cancer cells increases the absorption of FDG.

The tracer emits positrons that can be detected by the hand-held device.

During surgical procedures to remove a malignant tumour, the probe is used to identify tissue that has metabolised more of the biological tracer than neighbouring tissue, making it possible to distinguish between tissue that is cancerous and tissue that is healthy.

In this way the surgeon has, claim researchers, greater confidence that all of the cancerous tissue has been surgically removed.

The Riverside Diagnostic and Breast Imaging Centre, The Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, and Hampton University are undertaking a collaborative study that hopes to give doctors a clearer picture of mammograms.

The purpose of the study is to obtain clinical data on the reliability of a nuclear medicine technique called scintimammography in predicting breast lesion malignancy.

The goal, using a mini gamma camera developed by researchers at Hampton University and Jefferson Lab, is to reduce the 65 percent of false positives associated with conventional X-ray mammography.

Researchers hope that scintimammography may find tumours smaller than a penny, and be able to tell a woman that what looked like a problem in her mammogram isn’t cancer — without putting the patient through a biopsy.