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Cancer patients could be benefiting more than they realise from diagnostic scans. Research published today in Breast Cancer Research suggests that a radioactive molecule widely used to evaluate advanced tumours can kill cancer cells.

Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova and her team from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, USA, examined how radioactive glucose affects breast tumours in mice. They found that, injected at certain doses, the radiation from the glucose killed cancer cells without being toxic to other tissues.

Glucose that is tagged with radioactive fluorine-18 is commonly used in PET imaging (positron emission tomography imaging) to examine the size and progression of a known tumour. The method exploits the way in which normal glucose is metabolised by the body. When a patient is injected with radioactive glucose, the cells of the body try to use it as they would normal glucose. However, the fluorine prevents the radioactive glucose from being completely metabolised. Instead the glucose is trapped inside the cells. The patient is then scanned and doctors can see where the radioactive substance has been stored by analysing the pattern of energy it emits. Cancerous tissue, which uses more glucose than normal tissue, absorbs more radioactivity and appears brighter on the PET images.

Dr. Dadachova and colleagues suggest that: "Metabolic trapping of fluorine-18 labelled glucose is an attractive mechanism to deliver radioactivity to tumours as cancer cells have enhanced rates of glucose utilisation." The treatment would be relatively well tolerated by the body because the greatest amount of radioactivity is delivered straight to the tumour cells with relatively little of it affecting healthy tissues.

The tissue most sensitive to radiation is the bone marrow. If it is damaged, the patient can develop leukaemia. The maximum amount of radiation acceptable damages less than 5% of the marrow over 5 years. Even t
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Contact: Gemma Bradley
press@biomedcentral.com
44-0-20-7323- 0323
BioMed Central
21-Aug-2003


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