Prior studies by this multidisciplinary team of physician scientists at the Jonsson Cancer Center had shown that use of FDG PET/computed tomography (CT) could determine pathologic response after the first dose of chemotherapy drugs.
The researchers then wondered if the patients showing a significant PET response after the first round of chemotherapy also were surviving longer, said Dr. Fritz Eilber, an associate professor of surgical oncology, director of the Sarcoma Program at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center and senior author of the study.
"We did find that patients who experienced an early PET response to treatment had significantly increased survival," Eilber said. "This is vital because patients want to know if the drugs are working and what that says about their ultimate outcome."
The study was published April 1, 2012 in Clinical Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.
In this study, 39 patients with soft tissue sarcoma underwent a PET scan to measure their tumor's metabolism, or how much glucose was being taken up by the tumor, prior to getting chemotherapy. The patients were given another PET scan after the first round of chemotherapy. Those whose tumors demonstrated a 25 percent or more decrease in metabolic activity – a response considered significant - were determined later to have significant increased survival rates compared to those patients who had less than a 25 percent decrease, Eilber said.
"It's an important finding because we can now identify whether patients are getting the right chemotherapy very quickly," 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."
Going forward, Eilber and his team are working to design new molecular imaging tools that may tell them even more about a patient's cancer beyond the conventional FDG probe."Just looking at the size of the tumor is not good enough anymore," Eilber said. "We want to image what's happening within the tumor in real time."
UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center has more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2011, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named among the top 10 cancer centers nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for 11 of the last 12 years. For more information on the Jonsson Cancer Center, visit our website at http://www.cancer.ucla.edu
Kim Irwin | EurekAlert!
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