Doctors contemplating the best therapy for lung cancer patients may soon be able to predict the efficacy of a widely used lung cancer drug based on an imaging agent and a simple scan, according to the findings of a new clinical trial co-led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
The researchers developed a PET scan-compatible imaging agent engineered to seek out a specific mutation found in nonsmall cell lung cancer (which accounts for about 80 percent of lung cancers), bind to it and emit a radioactive signal that flags its presence. In addition to exposing the molecular roots of tumors, the imaging agent reveals potential weak spots in the cancer where specific therapeutic drugs can be administered to counteract the pro-tumor mutation.
“Some people wonder, ‘Can’t you just prescribe the drug and wait to see if the tumor shrinks? If it shrinks, then you know it’s working,'” said Sanjiv “Sam” Gambhir, MD, PhD, professor and chair of radiology at Stanford.
While in broad strokes that’s true, there’s a flaw to that approach: If the therapy isn’t effective, the tumors will not only continue to grow, but continue to become more molecularly complex. “In the time you waited to see if
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