The use of a SFRP2-molecularly targeted contrast agent with ultrasound could provide physicians with a less expensive and radiation free-alternative for detecting and monitoring cancer compared to modalities such as X-ray, CT and MRI, according to research out of the University of North Carolina.
With the technique, described in an article in PLOS ONE, researchers led by Nancy Klauber-DeMore, M.D., were able to use the imaging technique to visualize lesions created by angiosarcoma, a cancer that develops on the walls of blood vessels.
In earlier research, Klauber-DeMore's laboratory had determined that angiosarcoma cells produced an excess of the protein SFRP2, so her team created an SFRP2 targeted ultrasound agent that is retained in the tumor vasculature, but not in normal blood vessels.
Traditionally, ultrasound's utility in detecting and monitoring cancer has been limited because of issues related to imaging resolution and clarity. But by combining ultrasound with the SFRP2-targeted contrast agent, the researchers were able to specifically visualizes angiosarcoma vessels, but not normal vessels, with the intensity of the image increasing with tumor size.
"The SFRP2-moleculary targeted contrast agent showed specific visualization of the tumor vasculature," Klauber-DeMore said in an announcement. "In contrast, there was no visualization of normal blood vessels. This suggests that the contrast agent may help distinguish malignant from benign masses found on imaging."
According to the researchers, since SFRP2 is present in many cancers, they want to study how well the technique can work with other cancer types, such as breast cancer. In addition, since the level of the protein increases with tumor size, they want to investigate whether the technique can be used to track tumor growth.