Effects of radiation therapy gauged after 1 day in mice

JAPNA - Researchers from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and Osaka University have established a method to assess the effects of radiation therapy on cancerous cells of mice in a single day, it has been learned.

According to the team's leader, Ichio Aoki, if the method can be put to practical use for humans, it would shorten the time needed to assess the effectiveness of radiation therapy by as much as several months.

If radiation therapy is deemed ineffective on a patient in about one day using the method, doctors would be able to consider alternative therapies at an early date.

"[Through the method] we'll be able to reduce the number of patients for whom it is realised too late that they should receive other types of treatment while waiting for the results of radiation therapy," Aoki said.

The team from the Chiba city-based institute and Osaka University irradiated mice with colorectal cancer and injected into blood vessels a contrast medium that can easily penetrate into cancerous cells. About 24 hours later, the team scanned cancerous areas with a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device.

The MRI scans showed that cells weakened by radiation could not absorb the contrast medium, and as a result did not appear clearly.

In contrast, active cancerous cells not affected by radiation could be clearly seen.

Radiation therapy expert Keiichi Nakagawa, an associate professor at the University of Tokyo, said he held high expectations about the new method, although it is still in the animal experimentation stage.

"For practical use, though, it is necessary to ensure safety for humans when devising a scanning method," he said.

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