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Hugely Ambitious Cancer Imaging Effort Begins

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins In-Vivo Cellular and Molecular Imaging Center in Baltimore have begun a breathtaking five-year initiative to detect and treat breast, prostate, and other common cancers at their very earliest stages—when they’re hiding inside cells.

More than $8 million in grants from the National Cancer Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) are fueling the initiative. It builds on advanced imaging tools that the center has developed over the past decade.

Zaver Bhujwalla, PhD, director of the center and principal investigator for the initiative, explained in a Johns Hopkins news release the scope of the effort:

By harnessing the very latest technology in noninvasive imaging—using any single or combination imaging modality of MRI, CT, SPECT, PET, laser optics, or ultrasound—we expect to develop tests that detect cancer faster and earlier, distinguish spreading or metastatic tumors from dormant ones, and develop better and more tolerable chemotherapy drugs that only attack cancerous cells, leaving healthy cells alone.

Wow.

Here are some specific lines of investigation:

  • Using MRI to find proteins or other small molecules that could represent the earliest metabolic and biological changes in the formation of breast cancer.
  • Using laser imaging to analyze collagen fibers in breast cancer tumors, which form distinctive patterns in metastatic cancer.
  • Using SPECT, MR scanning, and optical- or laser-guided imaging to identify cancerous prostate cells by detecting a protein found only on such cells’ outside layer.
  • Using PET scans to guide a viral-activated drug, bortezomib, to kill Kaposi’s sarcoma cells.

Other research teams will explore the speed of skin cancer progression, the amount of tumor shrinkage during pancreatic cancer treatment, the process by which cancer spreads to the lungs, and treatments to prevent the spread of kidney cancer to the bones.

This could be very exciting stuff. We’ll check back to see how things progress.

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Thanks to all of you for reading us this year. We’ll keep trying to be useful, interesting, and, yes, even fun in 2012. Please continue to check us out here at Radiology Daily, on our Facebook page, and on our Twitter feed. Happy new year!

Related seminar: Abdominal & Pelvic Imaging: CT/MR/US

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