Molecular MRI technique gives early indication of cancer treatment effectiveness

Researchers from Cambridge University have performed a new molecular imaging technique that allows doctors to determine whether cancer drugs are successful within a few days following initial treatment on a European patient for the first time.

The procedure involves injecting patients with pyruvate—a breakdown product of glucose labelled with a carbon tracer to enhance its detectability using MRI—to monitor how fast cancer cells break the substance down.

The research, which is funded by London-based nonprofit organization Cancer Research UK, could enhance personalized cancer care by helping doctors discern whether patients should stop taking ineffective drugs weeks or even months faster than is currently possible.

“We hope that it will soon help improve treatment by putting to an end patients being given treatments that aren’t working for them,” said co-lead author and Cambridge professor Kevin Brindle, in a press release. “Each person’s cancer is different and this technique could help us tailor a patient’s treatment more quickly than before.”

The technique could also help prevent unnecessary adverse side-effects from unsuccessful cancer drugs and would limit wasteful use of expensive drugs that are not effectively treating the disease.