Sound is enlisted in cancer fight

Wednesday, 23 May, 2001

Ultrasound can provide a simple and painless way to predict how cancer patients will respond to chemotherapy, researchers in the United Kingdom have revealed.

The discovery, by scientists at the Charing Cross and Hammersmith hospitals in London, could greatly improve the treatment of cancer patients around the world, it is believed.

At present, analysis of drug resistance relies on tissue samples taken directly from cancers. Measurements are made of the number of blood vessels nourishing the tumour; the greater the number of blood vessels, the more likely the cancer is to resist chemotherapy.

But this method is severely limited because of the tiny proportion of cancer tissue tested. The researchers, who presented their findings at a recent meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in New Orleans, found that ultrasound could be used to assess the whole of the tumour by analysing its principle blood source.

Women with gestational trophoblastic tumours - a type of pregnancy cancer - were chosen for the study. But the scientists believe the technique can also be applied to other organ cancers, such as testicular, renal, ovarian and uterine which are also maintained by one main blood supply.

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