Stanford UniversityScientists are working quite hard to develop effective therapies for cancer. Well, they might have just found one. An imaging method merging ultrasound and particularly altered contrast agents may enable researchers to noninvasively identify cancer and exhibit its progression.

The scientists intravenously inserted microbubbles, gas-filled spheres apparently minute enough to pass through vessels into mice with cancers. The microbubbles, which were coordinated with a new peptide, were intended to trek through the vascular system and fasten to integrin. Tumor vessel development takes place when active tumor cells generate certain pathways to offer the tumor with an adequate supply of oxygen, nutrients and other aspects required for development.

Once the gas-filled microbubbles look for the cancers and fasten to their vessel walls, they apparently emit powerful signals that may be picked up by usual clinical ultrasound scanners. The imaging signals generated by the microbubbles is said to be reflected back to the ultrasound transducer and light up the regions that outline the tumor, thus offering scientists with a sonogram of tumor vessel development on a molecular level.

Juergen K. Willmann, M.D., lead author of the research and assistant professor of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, commented, “We hope this technique might be helpful for the early detection of disease. It may help save lives by finding cancer—such as breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer—in the very early stages, when it is still curable.”

Sanjiv Gambhir, M.D., Ph.D., director of the molecular imaging program at Stanford, mentioned, “Furthermore, the targeted microbubbles have great potential for translation from bench to bedside—which will be explored in future studies.”

Contrast-enhanced ultrasound may be utilized for image blood perfusion in organs, to gauge blood flow rate in the heart and other organs and to carry out other applications like characterization of focal lesions in the liver. The microbubbles, matched with the new peptide that attaches to tumor vessel cells as examined in the present research, may be more effectual as compared to antibody molecules.

Noninvasive imaging plans like the one demonstrated in the JNM study may be predominantly useful for detecting cancer in its initial stages as well as for developing therapeutic agents to treat cancer and checking whether the treatment is functioning.

The study was published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine (JNM).