Scan predicts success of radiotherapy for neuroendocrine tumours
Patients with advanced neuroendocrine tumours could be given a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to predict their response to treatment, say UK scientists.
The scan could help doctors decide who to offer targeted therapy, and who should stop treatment because it is not working.
As well as treating the right patients, the work could help avoid side-effects in people won't benefit, according to the scientists, who are based at The Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
In the study, published in the journal Radiology, researchers used a type of MRI, called dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI, to track treatment response in patients with neuroendocrine cancers that had spread to the liver.
These cancers develop in hormone-producing cells, often in the lungs and gut.
The outlook for patients with disease that has spread to the liver is poor, with only 20 to 30 per cent surviving for five years or longer.
The study, part-funded by Cancer Research UK, found that dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI can be used to assess whether such patients will respond to a type of radiotherapy called peptide receptor-targeted therapy.
Radiotherapy is important for the many patients for whom surgery is not possible, and also for patients who do not respond to chemotherapy.
Neuroendocrine tumours have a large blood supply.
To measure whether radiotherapy would work, the team used MRI to measure the blood supply in 20 patients with tumours that had spread to the liver, both before treatment and two months after receiving radiotherapy.
Patients who responded to treatment had a better blood supply.
Scientists working at the Cancer Research UK and EPSRC Cancer Imaging Centre said that until now doctors did not have a "satisfactory" way to predict which patients are likely to benefit from this type of radiotherapy.
One of the authors, Dr Dow-Mu Koh said: "We were able to reliably map patients' livers using a completely non-invasive technique.
"Importantly, this type of MRI can be carried out on standard equipment, which is already available in hospitals around the country."
Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "Accurately predicting patient response helps doctors to make prompt decisions about the best course of treatment for each individual. This is one of a number of studies that are showing the promise of MRI techniques in helping to achieve this aim."
Copyright Press Association 2012