New molecular imaging technologies can make it easier to diagnose, monitor, and treat cancers while potentially saving patients from undergoing therapies that are likely to be ineffective and playing a role in minimizing side effects, according to experts from the Abramson Cancer Center and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In a review published online on December 29, 2016 in JAMA Oncology, the Penn team says finding a way to use these techniques more widely in clinical settings should be a top priority. The article is titled “Making Molecular Imaging a Clinical Tool for Precision Oncology: A Review.” Precision cancer care focuses on identifying the specific biomarkers of a patient's cancer, which can help doctors make decisions about the best treatment options. A traditional way to learn about the genetic makeup of cancer is through a biopsy - in which doctors have to physically remove tissue from a patient and then examine it. But new molecular imaging, which can be used to complement the biopsy and is noninvasive, can provide added benefit in certain cases, especially when multiple examinations are needed. There are four main areas where molecular imaging can have a major impact, according to the study's lead author David A. Mankoff, M.D., Ph.D., the Gerd Muehllehner Professor of Radiology and Director of the PET Center at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. First, it can help identify patients most likely to benefit from targeted therapy. "Once we start treatment, it can also help us plan radiotherapy treatment and help define the boundaries of the active tumor," Dr. Mankoff said. Second, it can monitor the movement of drugs throughout the body to guide drug dosing and minimize side effects. Similarly, it can also monitor whether those drugs are having an effect.
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