Study: Tumor’s Response To Treatment May Be Measured Optically

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Cancer has always been known to be a deadly disease. In 2008, 7.6 million cancer related-deaths were recorded. Indeed, treatment seems to be that complicated. This is one of the reasons many studies are conducted in treating this disease. Several cancer treatments are targeting certain proteins which thrive outside of some malignant cells. However, these treatments are inadequate, and the cancer does not respond sometimes. It is indeed very helpful if physicians will know the cancer’s response to therapy, in a fast, precise, and cost-effective manner. The researchers from the Vanderbilt University have found a new optical method in testing cultured malignant cells’ response to certain cancer medication. Their findings can be seen in the December issue of Biomedical Optics Express, the Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal.

A beyond normal amount of the protein human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is present in some cancer cells. HER2 assists in mediating cell growth in healthy cells; nonetheless, its overexpression can be attributed to a very serious form of breast malignancy. It has been illustrated that medications binding to and blocking growth factor receptors can lengthen some cancer patients’ life. However, absence of response to the drug was observed in 30% of HER2 overexpressing tumors. In order to aid physicians in selecting the right options towards patient outcome improvement, tests that determine these non-responding tumors are crucial.

Furthermore, the Vanderbilt research team made use of the knowledge that certain cancer cells preferentially use a different metabolic pathway in contrast to normal cells as an advantage. Moreover, the proportional use of the various pathways was visualized by the team through shining the cells using light frequencies that led the two different metabolic molecules to fluoresce naturally. Then, a ratio between the two levels of fluorescence, known as optical redox ratio, was calculated.

From the array of cell lines they tested, they discovered that HER2 overexpressing cells had the utmost optical redox ratio. Moreover, they observed a decline in the ratio when HER2 malignant cells were treated with HER2- blocking medication. On the other hand, this decline was not evident in malignant cells that were resistant to the medication. In conclusion, these study results can serve as the foundation for in vivo researches in the future, especially about how real-time tumor’s response to therapy can be measured through light.




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