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CT Can Switch On Body’s Radiation Resistance

September 6, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Nuclear Medicine, Practice Management
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Just as the body builds up resistance to a drug, it can also become resistant to radiation. That may sound like a good thing—but not if you’re undergoing radiation therapy for cancer.

Two biophysicists at the University of Oslo in Norway say they’ve discovered how to turn the body’s resistance to both radiotherapy and chemotherapy on and off.

“This is new knowledge that opens possibilities for better treatment,” said Physics Professor Erik Olai Pettersen, PhD. “But there is a lot of research work ahead, so we don’t dare say which cancers the discovery might help fight.”

Dr. Pettersen was quoted in a news release from the university. He is also coordinator of the international cancer research project Metoxia. He and University of Oslo Postdoctoral Fellow Nina Jeppesen Edin, PhD, have been studying radiation resistance as an outgrowth of research on natural background radiation.

One of their findings: a CT scan that detects a cancer may also make that cancer harder to treat. Said Dr. Pettersen:

Some lengthy CT examinations lead to so much radiation that resistance can be turned on. However, the radiation level in a standard X-ray examination is so low that resistance is not turned on.

Cancer cells pass on radiation resistance to their descendant cells for at least five years after being exposed to radiation, the researchers found.

They even pass it along to unrelated cells with which they come in contact. Dr. Jeppesen Edin discovered how they do it: cancer cells, when irradiated, send a signal molecule telling other cells to turn on resistance to both radiation and other toxins, such as the chemicals used in chemotherapy.

“This means that when we are exposed to a little radiation,” she said, “signal molecules are sent to our entire body via the circulatory system. The cells that are not irradiated also become resistant then.”

Sometimes, we might want to do that on purpose—for astronauts exposed to cosmic radiation, for example, or rescuers in a radiation emergency such as occurred earlier this year at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor in Japan.

But for radiation therapy or chemotherapy, we obviously want to turn off the resistance. Drs. Pettersen and Jeppesen Edin think they’ve found a drug that will do so, but they haven’t yet tested it in animals or humans. They’re also not saying what it is, apparently because they’ve applied for a patent concerning its use.

Related seminar: ALARA-CT (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) (brand new)

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