Detailed imaging techniques are to help doctors target head and neck cancers more effectively in a £720,000 clinical trial.
It aims to improve the treatment and survival rates at Cardiff’s Velindre and Swansea’s Singleton hospital. The 3D scanning pinpoints the exact site of a tumour and maps the cancer’s behaviour more accurately to target it with radiotherapy. The trial, starting later this year, is being funded by two charities. It will combine modern radiotherapy with advanced medical imaging, known as PET.  Doctors say this sort of PET scanning not only sees the tumour’s outline, as it would on a CT or MRI scan, but it also sees the tumour’s activity. This provides far more detail and it is hoped it will give doctors an insight into how the cancer responds to treatment. “We inject patients with a radioactive sugar which is taken up by tumour cells, because they’re dividing very rapidly, and then we can see that sugar that accumulates in the tumour on a scan like a PET CT scan,” said consultant oncologist Dr Mererid Evans.”It’s not just anatomical; it gives us a measure of how the tumour is behaving.” Dr. Evans said it was the first example of so-called “dose painting” in Wales and it has not been done before with computer modelling to target the cancer.  “What we’re planning with the research is to do PET CT scans, not just before treatment to help us target tumours better, but also during treatment so we can see how the tumour is responding to treatment,” she added. “So we will be able to potentially adapt the radiotherapy during the course of treatment to give a higher dose to those very active areas of the tumour.”
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