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New technique for detecting cancer by using MRI to image sugar consumption of tumours


When researchers developed a new technique for cancer imaging recently, the news made headlines. University College of London (UCL) scientists unveiled their research findings in the journal Nature Medicine, and UCL reported the story in Sugar makes cancer light-up in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners.

The story was reported in Wired, International Science Times, Medical News Today, Laboratory Equipment, Red Orbit, First Post and The Daily Telegraph Australia.

But it was the headlines in the Daily Mail; Chocolate and fizzy drinks could be used as cancer detectors because malignant tumours feed off sugar, that caused articles to be written by:

• National Health Services (NHS) Choices - Could new tests use sugar to help detect cancer?
• Cancer Research UK’s science blog - Chocolate detects cancer headlines are misleading, which explained the science in more detail.

The technique called ‘glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer’ (glucoCEST) is based on the fact that tumours consume much more glucose (a type of sugar) than normal, healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth.

Dr Simon Walker-Samuel, from the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI) said: “GlucoCEST uses radio waves to magnetically label glucose in the body. This can then be detected in tumours using conventional MRI techniques. The method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumours, which require the injection of radioactive material.” Clinical trials are now underway. Research carried out at the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging was funded by National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, Cancer Research UK, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the British Heart Foundation (BHF).


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