Has cancer spread? Research identifies best way to find answers so treatment can begin

July 22, 2008

ST. LOUIS - For patients with head and neck cancer, accurately determining how advanced the cancer is and detecting secondary cancers usually means undergoing numerous tests - until now. New Saint Louis University research has found that the PET-CT scanner can be used as a stand-alone tool to detect secondary cancers, which occur in 5 to 10 percent of head and neck cancer patients.

The study findings, which will be presented on Tuesday, July 22 at the 7th International Conference on Head and Neck Cancer in San Francisco, Calif., will streamline care for head and neck cancer patients allowing them to begin treatment earlier, says Michael Odell, M.D., assistant professor of otolaryngology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

"There has been a lot of confusion about the best ways to evaluate head and neck cancer patients to see if their cancer has spread," said Odell, the study's primary author.

"Traditionally, doctors used many different tests, such as chest X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds, bone scans and blood work. Patients went through too many unnecessary procedures because there was no real consensus on the best way to evaluate them."

According to Odell, when choosing the appropriate treatment plan for head and neck cancer patients, it is critical to accurately stage the primary cancer and detect secondary cancers. Odell's research shows PET-CT scanning can replace all the other traditional tests.

Using the PET-CT scanner is not just a time saver, though; it also can be a life-saver.

"We all know that the time from when your doctor sees you to the time when you initiate treatment is important to outcomes," Odell explained. "So minimizing the number of tests is definitely important from an outcome standpoint."

To determine if PET-CT scans were as effective as the tradition tests, Odell and his colleagues evaluated the scans of 77 patients and found four to contain secondary cancers and one to have an additional primary cancer. The study's rate of detection - 7 percent - was inline with the results of previous studies, which range from 5 to 10 percent.

The PET-CT, which is an acronym for position emission tomography/computed tomography, combines two the benefits of both tests to offer unsurpassed diagnostic capabilities in pinpointing cancer. The PET scan is a highly sensitive scan that detects the growth of cancer cells, while the CT scan provides a detailed picture of the internal anatomy and the location of the growth.

While the current study focused exclusively on head and neck cancer patients, Odell says that it is likely that it will be applicable to other cancers.
-end-
Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious disease.

Editor's Note: To arrange an interview, contact Sara Savat, Saint Louis University Medical Center communications, at (314) 977-8018 or ssavat@slu.edu.

Saint Louis University

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.