STANFORD, Calif. -- Peering into the body and visualizing its molecular secrets, once the stuff of science fiction, is one step closer to reality with a study from researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.
The research team is reporting that by looking at images from radiology scans - such as the CT scans a cancer patient routinely gets - radiologists can discern most of the genetic activity of a tumor. Such information could lead to diagnosing and treating patients individually, based on the unique characteristics of their disease. The study will be published May 21 in the advance online edition of Nature Biotechnology.
"Potentially in the future one can use imaging to directly reveal multiple features of diseases that will make it much easier to carry out personalized medicine, where you are making diagnoses and treatment decisions based exactly on what is happening in a person," said co-senior author Howard Chang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology at Stanford, who led the genomics arm of the study.
The study's other senior author is Michael Kuo, MD, assistant professor of interventional radiology at UCSD, who said their work will help doctors obtain the molecular details of a specific tumor or disease without having to remove body tissue for a biopsy. "Ideally, we would have personalized medicine achieved in a noninvasive manner," said Kuo, who spearheaded the project in 2001 while he was a radiology resident at Stanford.
In some ways, the work brings to mind a device that science fiction fans may recall from the TV series, "Star Trek." "In almost every episode of 'Star Trek,' there is a device called a tricorder, which they used noninvasively to scan living or nonliving matter to determine its molecular makeup," said Chang. "Something like that would be very, very useful."