A study looking at a new injection for PET-CT scans for people with advanced cancer of the head and neck

Cancer type:

Head and neck cancers
Laryngeal cancer
Mouth (oral) cancer
Nasal and paranasal sinus cancer
Nasopharyngeal cancer
Pharyngeal cancer





This study looked at a new radioactive injection to see if it could show up areas of head and neck cancer that are hard to treat.

More about this trial

Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy can all be used to treat head and neck cancer. 

For radiotherapy and chemotherapy to work best, cancer cells need to have normal levels of oxygen. But cancers can have lower than normal levels of oxygen. This makes them harder to treat.

This study looked at a new injection used in PET-CT scans which may help show up areas of low oxygen levels in a cancer. The injection is radioactive, and is called 64 Copper ATSM (64Cu ATSM). 

Researchers wanted to see if this injection is taken up in areas of low oxygen in the cancer.  If it is, these areas will show up on a PET-CT scan.

To be sure that 64 Copper ATSM can show the areas of low oxygen in the cancer, doctors needed to compare the images from people’s PET-CT scan with the images taken from their cancer samples. To do this, they needed to create a new method of comparing images.

The main aim of this study was to create and test a new method to compare people’s PET CT scan images with their cancer samples. 

Summary of results

The research team was able to create a method of comparing images from people’s PET-CT scans and their tumour samples.   

6 people who had had cancer of the voice box (laryngeal cancer) and who were being seen at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital took part.

Everyone had a PET-CT scan with a 64 Copper ATSM injection. 1 week later everyone had surgery (total laryngectomy). During surgery, samples of the cancer were taken.

The research team tested the cancer samples in a laboratory. They put in markers (fiducial markers) and used a substance called formalin to preserve the cells. They call this fixation.

Once the cancer samples had been fixated, a CT scan was taken. Doctors compared these images with those from the PET-CT taken before surgery. They were able to match the images with each other.

The research team think they have developed a good method to compare images from people’s PET-CT scans and their cancer samples.

The research team is still looking at the results of this study. They are trying to see if 64 Copper ATSM can show the areas of low oxygen in the cancer. If it can, they hope to be able to give a higher radiotherapy dose to the areas of low oxygen. And improve the results of radiotherapy. 

We will add these results to this information after they have been published.

We have based this summary on information from the research team. 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 who did the research. 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

Dr Teresa Guerrero-Urbano

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
University College London (UCL)

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Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


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

Wendy took part in a new trial studying the possible side effect of hearing loss

A picture of Wendy

"I was delighted to take part in a clinical trial as it has the potential to really help others in the future.”

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