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Mesothelioma Patients Benefit from New Imaging Techniques

Innovations in surgical techniques, chemotherapeutic drugs, immunology and radiation therapeutic approaches are often the protocols that get the most attention when discussing advances in the treatment of mesothelioma. But according to researchers in the United Kingdom, one of the greatest advances that have been made in the field have come from the world of diagnostic imaging. A team from the UK’s Institute of Cancer Research has just published their evaluation of different imaging techniques and their uses, and has concluded that pleural mesothelioma patients get great benefit from the newer functional imaging techniques.

Functional imaging is a specific method that differs from traditional diagnostic imaging because rather than analyzing structures, it evaluates and measures changes in metabolism, blood flow, regional chemical composition, and absorption. This information is particularly important in the evaluation of whether a mesothelioma patient’s treatment is effective because the metabolism and other processes of mesothelioma cells are generally higher than those found in non-cancerous cells, making it easier to see whether treatment protocols are working.

Function imaging techniques include a variety of newer technologies, including positron emission tomography (PET scans), dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI, and diffusion-weighted MRI. Rather than simply looking at the body’s composition, these scans use injectable tracers to provide much more information that can be used to assess whether a tumor has reduced in size, grown, or returned.

According to Lin Cheng, one of the study’s authors, “By quantifying how these measurements change with treatment, it is possible to observe treatment effects.” Mesothelioma is a particularly challenging condition to treat and assess, in large part because the tumor is difficult to gauge with traditional diagnostic imaging. The shape of the tumor is generally thin and flat rather than the globe-like shape that is typical of many other cancers. The tumor encapsulates internal organs and is easily masked, which is why being able to measure it through processes rather than shape is advantageous.

For oncologists, surgeons, and radiation therapists eager to tailor their treatment approach to the responses seen in an individual patient, the ability to get a clearer picture of the success or failure of a protocol is extremely valuable. Patient-specific treatments have proven to be much more effective than taking a generic approach, and the use of functional imaging enables physicians to react quickly and change or continue course as needed.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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