A new imaging technique uncovers oxygen levels in prostate tumours and could lead to a non-invasive way to determine which tumours are more difficult to treat, according to a Cancer Research UK-funded study published in Theranostics*.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge created a new technique with an imaging device using a combination of light and sound to check the oxygen levels in prostate tumours in mice**.
They gave mice a short burst of pure oxygen to breathe, and monitored how quickly and efficiently the extra oxygen reached different tumour areas through the blood supply.
Using the imaging device, the researchers were able to image the stronger response to oxygen by tumours with better blood vessels, which could give vital information on the quality of vessels.
This could help doctors find patients with harder to treat prostate cancers. Cancer cells supplied by poor quality blood vessels and low oxygen levels – called hypoxic conditions – are more resistant to drugs and radiotherapy.
Not only are cells in hypoxic conditions hardier and better at adapting to harsh conditions, making them more aggressive, but poor blood vessels also reduce the number of treatments like chemotherapy that can penetrate into the heart of the tumour.
Dr Sarah Bohndiek, scientist at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, said: "Our new imaging technique gives us a clearer picture of the heart of prostate cancer than we have ever had before.
"The tortuous nature of blood vessels can leave tumours starved of oxygen – making the cancer resistant to radiotherapy and chemotherapy and very difficult to treat. If we can translate this technology to the clinic, we could provide a non-invasive way to stratify men for treatment and monitor the effect of different therapies."
Every year, about 46,500 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and around 11,000 men die from the disease.
Prof Karen Vousden, Cancer Research UK's chief scientist, said: "This new technique compliments existing MRI and PET scans by helping us learn more about blood vessels within the tumour, which we haven't been able to look at before in this way.
"It's important that we develop better techniques to understand a patient's individual tumour. This new tool gives insight into the tumour environment and could help separate the less aggressive forms of prostate cancer from the more difficult to treat."
For media enquiries contact Stephanie McClellan in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5314 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
Notes to editor:
* Tomaszewski et al. Oxygen enhanced optoacoustic tomography (OE-OT) reveals vascular dynamics in murine models of prostate cancer. Theranostics http://www.thno.org/v07p2900.htm
**Photoacoustic imaging: the imaging device uses light, which is absorbed by the tissue and creates a little heat. When molecules heat up, they vibrate more, and the sounds of this is picked up by the device.
About Cancer Research UK
- Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
- Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
- Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on every pound donated.
- Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
- Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
- Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
- Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.