La nueva técnica de la proyección de imagen revoluciona la detección de metástasis

por Lauren Dubinsky, Senior Reporter | September 22, 2014
A new breakthrough molecular imaging technique may help physicians see tumors that have metastasized to other areas of the body including the bones, according to a study published in the OnlineFirst edition of the journal Cancer Research. This technique is promising because there is currently no sensitive and specific non-invasive way to detect bone metastases.

Dr. Paul B. Fisher, co-lead investigator of the study, discovered a gene called AEG-1 that is expressed in most cancers but not in healthy cells. The new technique is used to detect the presence of that gene.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions combined a promoter called AEG-Prom — a set of chemical instructions coded in DNA that spurs the activity in a gene — with imaging agents made of the substances that make fireflies glow and a gene called HSV1tK that produces a chemical reaction when certain radioactive compounds are administered.

The researchers then put the mixture into tiny nanoparticles that were injected into the test subject intravenously. When the AEG-Prom is exposed to certain proteins that activate it, it initiates activity in the imaging agent and then sensitive imaging equipment finds the location of cancer cells expressing the agent.

"Because AEG-1 is expressed in the majority of cancers, this research could potentially lead to earlier detection and treatment of metastases originating from a variety of cancer types," Fisher said in a statement.

Both the imaging agents and nanoparticles were tested before in unrelated clinical trials but the next step is to image metastasis in patients in a clinical setting. The researchers are currently working towards that and hope to start a study soon.

Past studies that looked at melanoma and breast cancer used a different gene that was also discovered by Fisher called progression elevated gene-3 (PEG-3), which is paired with a promoter called PEG-Prom. It can be used for imaging as well as delivering therapeutic agents, including targeted therapies, directly to local and distant tumor sites and allowing physicians to monitor drug delivery in real time.

Other studies are currently being conducted to evaluate the usefulness and effectiveness of that technique.

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