UCLA logo and text Many a times, many cancer patients have to go through gruesome chemotherapy without any positive end result. The tumor in a patient may respond positively to a certain drug, and may be immune to some. This may result in loss of a lot of energy, time and may also have a lot of side effects on the patient. A latest study has come up with a novel non-invasive approach to tackle this problem. This approach may aid in better predicting the tumor’s response to the drug used before prescribing therapy.

This novel approach may thus enable the physicians in planning out the most suitable type of treatment and customizing it as per the patient’s need and requirement. This study was conducted by the University of California – Los Angeles.

Dr. Caius Radu, a researcher at Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, University of California – Los Angeles, says that, “For the first time, we can watch a chemotherapy drug working inside the living body in real time. We plan to test this method in healthy volunteers within the year to determine whether we can replicate our current results in humans.”

Radu and colleagues had in a previous study manipulated the molecular structure of a chemotherapy drug, gemcitabine, and developed a minute probe. This probe was later tagged, which would permit the investigators to view the probe’s movement in the body during imaging. In the present study, this probe was injected in mice suffering from leukemia and lymphoma tumors. The animal’s bodies were imaged after an hour by using a non-invasive scan, positron emission tomography (PET). This scan is usually used to detect the location of a tumor in a cancer patient, and to determine if it has spread from its root spot or returned after remission.

Radu says that, “The PET scanner operates like a molecular camera, enabling us to watch biological processes in living animals and people. Because we tag the probe with positron-emitting particles, the cells that absorb it glow brighter under the PET scan.”

The study authors say that the positron emission tomography scan can predict the way a certain tumor may react to a particular approach or therapy. The positive effect of this approach is that it does not have any side effects, and is non-invasive. The study investigators hope to conduct further studies in order to better understand the process of this particular probe. They hope to determine if the probe has the ability to predict cellular response to the other various chemotherapy drugs used.

The investigators aim is to evaluate whether the probe can succeed in giving a diagnostic test of clinical value. If the probe is successful in doing so, then the treated patient will be free to go back to their home right after the treatment and get back to their life.

Their findings are published in the advance online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.