A University of Iowa researcher has an article published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine this month, about using scanning technology to track whether a cancer cure is working. Radiologist doctor Malik Juweid compares the PET Scan to more well-known CAT scans that shine x-rays through the body to take a picture of it. With the other method, a patient is injected with a substance like glucose that is very slightly radioactive. The glucose is taken up by various organs of the body — and a cancerous tumor will take up a lot more than other tissues will. That concentration of glucose with its radioactive “tag” then will show up clearly in a PET scan.

She says they can do a PET scan before starting cancer therapy to get a clear picture of the extent of the disease, and how much therapy to give. Juweid explains that process can also show if a cancer therapy is working to shrink the tumor. After the therapy’s begun they do the procedure again to see what’s happened. The “hot spots” that show up in a scan signaling the tumor will disappear if it’s been effectively, but if they are still there the doctors will know the therapy failed or worked only partially. His article in the journal concludes could have a larger role in the treatment of cancer, and could improve cancerate management. PET stands for positron emission tomography.