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Research Into Cancer Conducted At The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK)
CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 09: A Scientist looks at cells through a fluorescent microscope at the laboratories at Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute on December 9, 2014, in Cambridge, England. Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Its vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. They have saved millions of lives by discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and as such, the survival rate in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years. Cancer Research UK funds over 4,000 scientists, doctors, and nurses across the UK, more than 33,000 patients who join clinical trials each year, and a further 40,000 volunteers that give their time to support the work.

Thanks to 'virtual biopsies' incorporating CT and ultrasound scans, cancer patients may one day be able to forgo intrusive tissue sampling.

Experts from Cambridge have demonstrated that routine diagnostic scans may build a visual tumor guide to help doctors find the right place for targeted biopsies.

Although also enabling extensive sampling of a tumor, this may allow less intrusive biopsies and even make physical biopsies redundant one day.

University of Cambridge radiologist Lucian Beer said their research is a move forward in unraveling tumor heterogeneity non-invasively. For ultrasound-guided targeted biopsies, they used standard-of-care CT-based radiomic tumor environments.

Specialists reported the full conclusions of the research in the journal European Radiology

What is Tumor Heterogeneity?

Tumor heterogeneity is the concept provided by doctors that various cell types are made up of a given lump of cancerous tissues.

Understanding the structure of a given tumor is crucial to choosing the patient's right medication since genetically diverse cells may vary in their treatment responses.

Therefore, cancer patients usually receive various biopsies to validate their diagnose and help inform their care strategy - with physicians juggling the desire to take detailed samples alongside the painful aspect of the operation.

Accurate biopsies are particularly relevant in the case of ovarian cancer, the researchers clarified. The most popular form appears to come with elevated tumor heterogeneity levels,' high grade serous ovarian cancer.'

Unfortunately, those patients with greater heterogeneity levels within their forms of tumor cells appear to have weaker treatment regime responses.

Dr. Beer and colleagues enrolled six advanced ovarian cancer patients in their research who were expected to have ultrasound-guided biopsies before beginning their chemotherapy regimen.

The team used regular CT scans to create a three-dimensional representation of patients' tumors, made up from a sequence of X-ray photographs' slice-by-slice.'

The researchers then used high-powered computational methods to chart the tumor's magnitude and internal characteristics, which were subsequently superimposed on the ultrasound scan to direct each case's biopsies.

How Simulated Biopsies Could Help Therapeutic Biopsies In The Future

Research Into Cancer Conducted At The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK)
CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 09: Vials containing biological samples are stored on ice to keep them fresh before being analyzed at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute on December 9, 2014, in Cambridge, England. Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Its vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. They have saved millions of lives by discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and as such, the survival rate in the UK has doubled in the last 40 years. Cancer Research UK funds over 4,000 scientists, doctors, and nurses across the UK, more than 33,000 patients who join clinical trials each year, and a further 40,000 volunteers that give their time to support the work.

According to the team, the method effectively captured the variety of cancer cells inside each patient's tumor.

The researchers said that simulated biopsies might supplement intrusive therapeutic biopsies in the future.

Professor Evis Sala of the Department of Radiology has suggested that this research is a significant landmark in tissue sampling quality. The experts say that in turning cutting edge science into standard clinical treatment, they are testing the limits.

This feasibility analysis includes researchers from the radiology school, the Cambridge Institute of Cancer Treatment UK, the NHS Foundation Trust of Cambridge University Hospitals, and more.

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