Natural sugar may be used to detect how malignant a tumor is, a new study has found.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden and Johns Hopkins University in the United States developed a contrast agent out of ordinary sugar and used it in magnetic resonance tomography tests to detect tumor malignancy.

How Does It Work?

The study involved three patients with brain tumor and four healthy individuals.

To determine the extent of malignancy that a tumor possesses, the researchers infused little amounts of sugar into it. They then measured how much sugar the tumor consumed.

The findings show that the consumption of sugar is higher in the tumor than in healthy tissue, and that the higher rate of sugar consumption a tumor exhibits, the more malignant it is.

A more in-depth experiment is said to take place soon in Lund.

Replacing Metals With Natural Agents

The study has paved the way for a new technique in performing magnetic resonance tomography imaging. The new method now entails using natural sugar instead of metal in contrast agents.

"If sugar replaces metal as a contrast agent in the body, it can also have a positive psychological effect and make patients calmer," says study author Linda Knutsson from Lund University.

Aside from that, sugar-based contrast agents may help cut down costs of screenings because it is cheaper than metal-based ones.

One letdown with this new discovery though is that it cannot be used in patients diagnosed with diabetes, whose main problem is high sugar content in the blood.

New Techniques In Cancer Screening And Evaluation

Scientists continue to develop more novel ways of screening and evaluating cancer. For example, at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists from the University of California, Los Angeles presented a simple saliva test that can detect cancer in just 10 minutes with near-perfect accuracy.

The research on the sugar contrast agent was published in the December 2015 issue of the journal Tomography. It is the first of its kind in this area of clinical research, and highlights how a non-synthetic contrast agent can be used in aid human magnetic resonance tomography tests.

Photo: Andrei Niemimäki | Flickr

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