A metabolic imaging trial is currently underway to test a new imaging technique that could help doctors detect whether a prescribed treatment works for patients with cancer after a day or two of administration.

The study, carried out by the scientists from Cancer Research UK in Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, aims to see if the new method can help in determining how well cancer medication for individual patients works. The new imaging technique can also lead to new ways of cancer detection.

The technique would enable doctors to monitor the molecular changes in a patient's body. This way, they would be able to see if the patient needs to stop taking the drugs that don't work and try other medications until they find the drug that does work. With this technique, cancer patients would be able to receive treatments that are more personalized and proven to be effective.

"This new technique could potentially mean that doctors will find out much more quickly if a treatment is working for their patient instead of waiting to see if a tumor shrinks," said Dr. Ferdia Gallagher, co-lead author and a consultant radiologist from the University of Cambridge.

The rapid scanning technique uses a biological molecule called pyruvate, a breakdown product of glucose. The pyruvate, labeled with non-radioactive carbon C-13 to make it more easily picked up in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, is injected into the patient and tracked down.

Since the pyruvate is easily detected by MRI, doctors are able to monitor not only the molecule's movement but also how fast the cancer cells can break it down, which indicates how active the cancer cells are. The more active cancer cells are or the quicker they are able to break down the pyruvate, the lesser the effectiveness of the drug in killing the cells.

"Finding out early on whether cancer is responding to therapy could save patients months of treatment that isn't working for them," said Dr. Emma Smith, science information manager of Cancer Research UK.

Co-lead author Professor Kevin Brindle of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute said that cancers vary from person to person and that the new imaging technique can help them modify a patient's treatment faster.

The scientists highlighted that they are the first group outside of North America and the third group worldwide to conduct a test using the new imaging technique on patients.

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