London, Feb 25 : Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre have identified a protein that recognizes tumours responding to chemotherapy. When tagged with a light-emitting molecule the molecule can determine the efficacy of cancer treatments within days of its starting.
The team of researchers led by Dennis Hallahan, the Ingram Professor of Cancer Research and chair of Radiation Oncology at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre discovered that the protein that bound to tumours responding to therapy, when attached to a light-emitting molecule could assess the treatment response in mice implanted with human tumours in just two days.
"Improved monitoring of tumour response could help customize patient treatment and also speed up the development of new cancer drugs," Nature quoted Hallahan, as saying.
"It takes two to three months of cancer therapy before we can determine whether the therapy has been effective for a patient.
"If we can get that answer within one to two days, we can switch that patient to an alternative regimen very quickly," he added.
The researchers assessed the response of the tumours with the help of specialized imaging cameras that detect light in the near-infrared range (invisible to the human eye).
The findings revealed that the tumours responding to therapy were "brighter" than non-responding tumours within two days of initiation of treatment.
"The key word here is 'days. This will allow us to minimize the duration of treatments with ineffective regimens in cancer patients," he said.
Presently, imaging techniques like CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are used to determine the response that measures the tumour size.
The researchers would be conducting further studies for determining the effectiveness in humans with the help of imaging modality called PET (positron emission tomography).
The study will appear in Nature Medicine.