Monitoring Cancer Treatment Faster

Sarcoma treatment effectiveness can be monitored via PET scanning

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Meeting the demand for cancer treatment results, an imaging technology has been adapted to monitor the success of chemotherapy in patients with cancer of the head and neck.

An existing imaging technology called Positron Emission Tomography (PET) may have a valuable new use.

The scan could help doctors quickly determine the results of treatments in patients with the form of cancer known as soft tissue sarcomas, which are generally found in the head and neck.

"Ask your oncologist about PET scanning."

A group of researchers from University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center built upon earlier research on monitoring chemotherapy in cancer patients by using PET scans. Fritz Eilber, M.D., associate professor of surgical oncology at UCLA, was the senior author of the study.

"It's an important finding because we can now identify whether patients are getting the right chemotherapy very quickly," Dr. Eilber said. "Patients don't want to have to wait until the cancer recurs or they die to find out whether their chemotherapy worked or not."

"Just looking at the size of the tumor is not good enough anymore," Dr. Eilber said. "We want to image what's happening within the tumor in real time."

The study measured the difference in glucose metabolism in patients before and then after chemotherapy. The results showed that in the 39 patients with head and neck cancer, a 25 percent decrease in glucose metabolism meant significantly increased survival rates in comparison to patients where the PET scan showed minimal change.

The PET scan looks at the decrease in glucose metabolism, a signal that generally means cellular damage, or in this case, widespread death of cancer cells.

The study was published April 1, 2012 in Clinical Cancer Research, the journal of the American Association of Cancer Research. 

This study was funded by the In vivo Cellular and Molecular Imaging Center at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as the Department of Energy.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 10, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2012