Medical researchers at the University of Iowa have landed a six-million dollar federal grant to study a new way to test how cancer patients respond to therapy. Doctor Michael Graham, head of the U-of-I’s Nuclear Medicine division, says they’re looking into patients’ bodies using something more sophisticated than X-rays or M-R-Is. The new views are coming through PET, or positron emission tomography.
Dr. Graham says the National Cancer Institute is convinced this will be a very powerful approach to early assessment of response to therapy, rather than waiting to see how the patient does. Graham says PET provides more precise, immediate data into exactly how the cancer is being effected by treatment.
Graham says it’s a new approach to looking at how tissues function, rather than just what they look like. X-rays, C-T scans and M-R-Is give very sharp pictures of what the tissues look like but PET gives a view into how they’re functioning. For example, he says a tracer placed in the patient’s bloodstream allows doctors to look at glucose, a sugar metabolism which is an important fuel for most cells.
Cancer cells use glucose much more than normal tissues, so they can see the tumors and if they’re responding to treatment. If the treatment is hurting the tumor, it’ll be using less glucose or may even stop and they’ll be able to see that and measure it accurately.
Graham’s team at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at University Hospitals in Iowa City is one of only eight medical facilities in the nation to get federal grants for this project.