SYDNEY, Oct 8 (Reuters) An Australian scientist has developed a test that detects within days whether chemotheraphy is actually killing a patient's cancer cells, allowing doctors to prescribe alternative, less debilitating treatment earlier.
The test involves the injection of a molecular dye, which attaches to dying or dead cancer cells, within 24 to 48 hours of the patient's first dose of chemotheraphy or radiotherapy.
Currently a cancer patient must undergo a full chemotheraphy course, which can take months and kills off healthy cells too, before a doctor can determine whether a tumour has been reduced.
''Cancer doctors need to be able to...decide whether the actual therapy is killing the cancer cells the day after the first administration,'' said Philip Hogg, director of the University of New South Wales's Cancer Research Centre in Sydney.
''We've made a compound that when injected into the body, latches onto dying and dead cancer cells a non-invasive measure of whether the actual drugs are working or not,'' Hogg said today.
A CT scan would show how much dye has attached itself to cancer cells, an indication that the treatment is working.
''What you'll find is if the cancer drugs are working, you'll find that the tumour has taken up a lot of this dye. If it's not working, it won't take up much of this dye at all,'' said Hogg.
Hogg said the dye test worked on all solid tumours such as lung, breast, colon and prostrate cancers.
He said clinical trials of the dye test would begin next year and hoped it would be available within five years. The test had been sold to US pharmaceutical firm Covidien Ltd.
''Apoptosis (cell death) imaging would assist physicians in personalising a patient's treatment by reducing the time needed to gauge the effectiveness of therapy,'' Steve Hanley, President of Covidien Imaging Solutions said in a statement.
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