A study looking at PET scans for people having treatment for breast cancer

Cancer type:

Breast cancer





This study looked at whether PET scans showed how well a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel worked in people with breast cancer.

Docetaxel is a chemotherapy drug that doctors sometimes use before surgery to treat early stage breast cancer or to treat breast cancer that has spread (metastatic).

Doctors often use scans (such as CT scans) before, during and after treatment to find out how well the treatment is working.

As chemotherapy can cause side effects, it is best to know as early as possible if treatment is working. If not working as well as the doctors hoped, they could change the treatment or stop it, depending on the situation.

Doctors thought that using a PET scan early on in treatment could help with this. PET scans can show cell growth, so if the treatment was slowing down the growth of the cancer, the scan should pick this up.

The researchers compared the PET scans to standard ways of measuring response to treatment, such as CT scans or ultrasound.

Summary of results

The study team found that they could use a type of PET scans (called FLT-PET) to show changes in cancer cell growth.

This study recruited 20 people. Everyone had a PET scan before starting their course of docetaxel and again half way through. CT scans or ultrasounds were done half way through their treatment to measure the response to treatment. The researchers then compared the PET scan and CT or ultrasound scan taken half way through treatment.

They were able to compare the scans of 18 people. Both scans showed that in

  • 1 person there was no sign of their cancer – a complete response Open a glossary item
  • 12 people their cancer had shrunk – a partial response Open a glossary item
  • 5 people their cancer had stayed the same – stable disease Open a glossary item

The researchers concluded that PET scans could be used to show how well breast cancer responds to docetaxel chemotherapy.  

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Prof R Coombes

Supported by

Imperial College School of Medicine
Medical Research Council (MRC)

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Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 3129

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Deborah wanted to help other breast cancer patients in the future

A picture of Deborah

“Deborah agreed to take part in a trial as she was keen to help other cancer patients in the future. "If taking part in a trial means others might be helped then I’m very happy with that."

Last reviewed:

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