Science Questions

Screening Cancer: Scanners and Antibodies

Tue, 5th Nov 2013

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Question

David Bailey asked:

Do you think that PET scanners, a kind of body scanner, with the use of antibody specific markers on cancers could be routinely used for screening?

Answer

Nick Coleman -  So, the first thing to say is, that wouldn't be screening.  Pet_scanScreening is testing for the presence or absence of disease – in this case, cancer – in somebody who’s symptom free.  But in terms of a diagnostic workup of somebody who has symptoms or has a known tumour, this kind of approach I think is very exciting because as I was saying earlier, as we now understand more about the biology of tumours, we can pinpoint differences between tumour cells and normal cells that will allow us to target their presence.  One example that's being looked at quite a lot is molecules that are secreted by cancer cells which provide them with more blood supply.  Because we know that the tumour cells are rich in these molecules, antibodies targeted against those molecules and then used in some sort of imaging process will allow us to pick up the presence of tumours or tumour deposits very accurately with a greater sensitivity than the existing imaging methods.

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