par Carol Ko
, Staff Writer | October 09, 2013
New research shows that PET scans may help doctors decide which lung cancer patients need additional treatment for aggressive tumors.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, was led by Dr. Mitchell Machtay, chairman of radiation oncology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
It followed 250 patients with stage 3 lung cancer enrolled in 60 cancer centers across the country.
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After treating patients with a standard regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, researchers used PET scans to determine which patients had more aggressive tumors that required more treatment.
Higher rates of sugar absorption are a key characteristic of cancerous cells, and PET scans allow scientists to visualize this by using a radioactive sugar molecule that lights up brightly when absorbed by the tumor.
Using this molecule, PET scans are able to show the physiological characteristics of the tumor, including changes in metabolic and chemical activity that are caused by growing cancer cells.
Thanks to the PET scan, researchers found that patients with tumors that had higher sugar uptake had more aggressive tumors that were more likely to come back.
The results also showed that the cancer's chances of coming back correlated strongly with the intensity of the radiation dose.
"These findings have the potential to give cancer physicians a new tool to more effectively tailor treatments for patients with locally advanced lung cancer," said Machtay, study author and principal investigator of the trial, in a press release.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States and the second most common type of cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, 159,480 people will die from the disease this year.