Paired CT captures chemo at work on liver tumors in real time

A team of Johns Hopkins University and Dutch radiologists have used paired CT scans to produce real-time images of liver tumors dying after being injected with cancer-killing drugs.

The technique--called dual-phase cone-beam computed tomography or DPCBCT--was developed at Johns Hopkins. In a study that will be published in the journal Radiology, researchers performed diagnostic scans using the technique on 27 men and women with inoperable liver cancer.

According to the researchers, the initial shrinkage of the tumors seen with DPCBCT taken prior to and after chemoembolization was the same as seen in MRI scans taken one month later. Tumor death as seen with DPCBCT was 95 percent, the same as seen with MRI.

Jean-Francois Geschwind, M.D., a professor in the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center and senior study investigator, said if further testing proves successful, the new technique could replace the current practice of MRI scanning one month after chemoembolization to check the results.

"Patients should not have to endure the uncertainty of waiting weeks or more to find out if their chemoembolization was successful in fighting their liver cancer," Geschwind said, according to an announcement. "Dual-phase cone-beam CT avoids such delays, which also could allow the cancer to grow and spread and, ultimately, compromise chances of remission."

The DPCBCT technique involves enhancing the CT scan image by injecting a chemical contrast dye into the artery supplying blood to the liver and tumor just before the injection of the chemotherapy drug, according to a Digital Journal article. The first set of scans highlights the blood vessels feeding the tumor as the dye flows through it, while the second set of scans is performed directly after chemoembolization so that tumor and blood vessel death can be captured.

The scanning process takes only 20 to 30 seconds, according to researchers, and the amount of radiation exposure to the patient is less than half of that from an abdominal 64-slice CT scan.

For more information:
- read the announcement
- check out the Digital Journal article
- here's the study's abstract


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