Using PET Scans To Monitor Cancer Cells' Activity And Predict Who Will Develop Alzheimer's, Other Diseases

Positron emission tomography (PET) opens a window on human health and behavior with its ability to visualize biochemical activity in the living body. The technique relies on short-lived, radioactive chemicals that emit bursts of energy as they decay. Scientists use these chemicals to harmlessly tag substances and trace their effect in the body through PET scan images.


DALLAS, March 29 -- When normal cells start to become cancerous, they develop an enormous appetite for glucose (the basic energy substrate of the body), says Michael Phelps, Ph.D., of the UCLA School of Medicine. After injection with a glucose analog tagged with fluorine-18, a radiotracer, a patient can be examined by a whole body PET scan to determine whether a tumor is malignant (high glucose metabolism) or benign, or whether the cancer has spread to any other organ systems of the body, he said here today at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society, world's largest scientific society.

Such studies are being used to detect and stage the severity of cancer in patients with lung, breast, head and neck, colorectal, melanoma, lymphoma ovarian and prostate cancer. PET radiotracer techniques have also been used to identify the early metabolic alterations of degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases. For example, at the early stage of disease when all other imaging techniques are normal, early metabolic alterations are readily apparent in PET scans and specific to each of the diseases, Phelps said. Further, studies of Huntington's disease and the genetic form of Alzheimer'

Contact: Nancy Blount
American Chemical Society

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