Have you ever thought of any possible relationship between chocolate and cancer? If not, here comes one! A new technique for detecting cancer by imaging the consumption of sugar with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has been unveiled by UCL scientists. Chocolate, fizzy drinks and other sugary foods will soon help cancer detection providing an excellent alternative to standard radioactive techniques and enabling radiologists to image tumours in greater detail.
So how does glucose (a type of sugar) facilitates tumour detection? According to scientists, tumours consume much more glucose than normal healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth. By providing patients with the same sugar content found in half a standard sized chocolate bar, radiologists will be able to easily distinguish between healthy and non-healthy tissues.
This breakthrough technique, called 'glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer' (glucoCEST), will offer a cheap and safe alternative to the existing methods for tumour detection. At present, PET scans are used for tumour detection but these are not recommended for pregnant women and children due to the injection of radioactive material required before the scan. These are also available in very few large hospitals and specialized centers around the world. GlucoCEST uses radio waves to magnetically label glucose in the body. This can then be detected in tumours using conventions MRI scans, a standard imaging technology available in many large hospitals, therefore reducing the risks associated with a dose of radiation.
According to Professor Mark Lythgoe, director of UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging and senior investigator of the study, in the future patients may be able to be scanned in local hospitals rather than needing to be referred to more specialized centers.
For those interested, study results have been published in the journal of Nature Medicine and trials are now underway to detect glucose in human cancers.
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine