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UCLA scientists develop crystal ball for personalized cancer treatment
Date:2/2/2009

For many cancer patients, chemotherapy can be worse than cancer itself. A patient may respond to one drug but not another -- or the tumor may mutate and stop responding to the drug -- resulting in months of wasted time, ineffective treatment and toxic side effects.

Now UCLA scientists have tested a non-invasive approach that may one day allow doctors to evaluate a tumor's response to a drug before prescribing therapy, enabling physicians to quickly pinpoint the most effective treatment and personalize it to the patient's unique biochemistry. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishes the UCLA findings in its Feb. 2 advance online edition.

"For the first time, we can watch a chemotherapy drug working inside the living body in real time," explained Dr. Caius Radu, a researcher at the Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging and assistant professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "We plan to test this method in healthy volunteers within the year to determine whether we can replicate our current results in humans."

In an earlier study, Radu and his colleagues created a small probe by slightly altering the molecular structure of gemcitabine, one of the most commonly used chemotherapy drugs. They labeled the probe with a special tag that enabled them to watch its movement throughout the body during imaging.

In this study, the UCLA team injected the probe into mice that had developed leukemia and lymphoma tumors. After an hour, the researchers imaged the animals' bodies with positron emission tomography (PET), a non-invasive scan often used on cancer patients to identify whether a tumor has spread from its original site or returned after remission.

"The PET scanner operates like a molecular camera, enabling us to watch biological processes in living animals and people," said Radu, who is also a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer
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Contact: Elaine Schmidt
eschmidt@mednet.ucla.edu
310-792-2272
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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