Researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a pill that makes tumors light up when exposed to infrared light, and they have demonstrated that the concept works in mice.
As many as one in three women treated for breast cancer undergo unnecessary procedures, but a new method for diagnosing it could do a better job distinguishing between benign and aggressive tumors.
Let's be honest, a mammography is an imprecise tool.
About a third of breast cancer patients treated with surgery or chemotherapy have tumors that are benign or so slow-growing that they would never have become life-threatening, according to a study out of Denmark last year.
In other women, dense breast tissue hides the presence of lumps and results in deaths from treatable cancers. All that, and mammograms are notoriously uncomfortable.
“We overspend $4 billion per year on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers that women would never die from,” said Greg Thurber, U-M Assistant Professor of chemical engineering and biomedical engineering, who led the team. “If we go to molecular imaging, we can see which tumors need to be treated.”
The move could also catch cancers that would have gone undetected. Prof Thurber’s team uses a dye that responds to infrared light to tag a molecule commonly found on tumor cells, in the blood vessels that feed tumors and in inflamed tissue. By providing specific information on the types of molecules on the surface of the tumor cells, physicians can better distinguish malignant cancer from a benign tumor.
Compared to visible light, infrared light penetrates the body easily–it can get to all depths of the breast without an X-ray’s tiny risk of disrupting DNA and seeding a new tumor. Using a dye delivered orally rather than directly into a vein also improves the safety of screening, as a few patients in 10,000 can have severe reactions to intravenous dyes. These small risks turn out to be significant when tens of millions of women are screened every year in the U.S. alone.
But it’s not easy to design a pill that can carry the dye to the tumor.
“To get a molecule absorbed into the bloodstream, it needs to be small and greasy. But an imaging agent needs to be larger and water-soluble. So you need exact opposite properties,” Prof Thurber said.
The targeting molecule has already been shown to make it through the stomach unscathed, and the liver also gives it a pass, so it can travel through the bloodstream. The team attached a molecule that fluoresces when it is struck with infrared light to this drug. Then, they gave the drug to mice that had breast cancer, and they saw the tumors light up.
----European Pharmaceutical Review
A Pill for breast cancer diagnosis? It just may be.
Until that time, I have come across some interesting info on some natural interventions and dietary considerations may benefit women with breast cancer (Li 2017).
For instance, above-average dietary intakes of selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, or lignans have been associated with better outcomes in women with breast cancer (Harris 2012; Khankari 2015; McCann 2010), and drinking more than three cups of green tea per day has been associated with reduced breast cancer recurrence (Bao 2015).
In addition to this...
Some findings suggest off-label use of some cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (including atorvastatin, lovastatin, and simvastatin) may improve chances of survival for women with breast cancer (Liu 2017).
And the first-line anti-diabetic drug metformin has shown some promising effects in breast cancer patients, even among non-diabetics (DeCensi 2015; Ko 2015).
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