Metabolic 'fingerprinting' of tumors could help bowel cancer patients

August 12, 2013

It is possible to see how advanced a bowel cancer is by looking at its metabolic 'fingerprint', according to new research.

Bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer globally, with over one million new cases diagnosed every year. Accurately determining the stage that a has reached is crucial for deciding which treatments to offer.

Metabolic fingerprinting looks at the levels of many different , which are the products of in the body's , in a sample of blood, urine or tissue. This mix of metabolites alters as cancer develops and grows. The researchers behind the new study, from Imperial College London, suggest that doctors could use metabolic fingerprinting alongside existing to give them the most accurate possible analysis of a tumour. The work is published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

Doctors currently use a combination of CT, MRI and scanning to evaluate how advanced a tumour is, but as these scans rely on visual estimations of a tumour's size and location, they are not always sufficiently sensitive or specific. Previous studies have shown that these techniques regularly suggest that a tumour is more advanced, or less advanced, than it really is.

Dr Reza Mirnezami, the lead author of the study from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: "Working out the stage of a tumour is critical for planning a patient's treatment. Increasingly, before we surgically remove a tumour, we will give therapies to try and shrink it down, but the kinds of therapies we offer depend on our assessment of how advanced that tumour is. The more accurate we can be, the better the patient's chances of survival.

"Our research suggests that using metabolic fingerprinting techniques in addition to scanning could give us the clearest possible picture of how the cancer is progressing."

For the new study, researchers analysed the metabolic fingerprint of 44 bowel tumour , provided by patients at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, using high-resolution magic angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (HR-MAS NMR). Their results were as accurate at determining the stage that the cancer had reached as existing radiological methods.

Lord Ara Darzi, the Paul Hamlyn Chair of Surgery at Imperial, and senior author of the study, said: "We know that even with the impressive scanning technology we have available at the moment, it's not always possible to correctly ascertain the local stage of a cancer. Our study suggests that used alongside medical imaging, metabolic fingerprinting could enable us to gain more accurate information. This would give us greater certainty about the right course of treatment to give to patients, sparing some patients from invasive treatment where they don't need it."

The research also suggests that tumours take on unique metabolic properties as they become more advanced, opening up new avenues for treatment. The researchers hope that ultimately, it may be possible to take out different metabolic targets when the cancer is at different stages, in order to disable or slow down the tumour.

Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Head of the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial and corresponding author for the study, said: "This study represents one part of our program of advanced technology development to improve patient safety in the surgical environment and shows the huge potential of using metabolic models to stratify patients and optimise therapy."

Explore further: New biomarker for bowel cancer could help predict if disease will spread

More information: "Rapid Diagnosis and Staging of Colorectal Cancer via High-Resolution Magic Angle Spinning Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (HR-MAS NMR) Spectroscopy of Intact Tissue Biopsies" Annals of Surgery.

Related Stories

New biomarker for bowel cancer could help predict if disease will spread

July 24, 2013
Scientists have identified a protein that could play a crucial role in recognising whether bowel cancer patients need chemotherapy as there is a high risk of their bowel cancer spreading, according to a new study1 published ...

Examination of lymph nodes provides more accurate breast cancer prognosis

July 29, 2013
After a breast cancer operation, the removed tumour is always examined, as its subtype can provide an indication of how aggressive the disease is. The patient's lymph nodes are not analysed in the same way. Yet the breast ...

'Fingerprinting' breakthrough offers improved brain tumour diagnosis

September 21, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—UK scientists have made a breakthrough in a new method of brain tumour diagnosis, offering hope to tens of thousands of people.

'Intelligent knife' tells surgeon which tissue is cancerous

July 17, 2013
Scientists have developed an "intelligent knife" that can tell surgeons immediately whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not.

New possibilities for prostate cancer treatment revealed

May 29, 2013
Researchers have identified a sub-group of cells that could contribute to prostate cancer recurrence, opening up new ways to treat the disease, which claims more than 3000 lives a year in Australia.

'Molecular fingerprinting' will improve monitoring of surgical patients, experts say

May 18, 2011
Chemical screening technologies will help doctors to monitor surgical patients before, during and after operations, providing better targeted care and treatment, say Imperial College London experts in an article published ...

Recommended for you

World's first child hand transplant a 'success'

July 19, 2017
The first child in the world to undergo a double hand transplant is now able to write, feed and dress himself, doctors said Tuesday, declaring the ground-breaking operation a success after 18 months.

Knee surgery—have we been doing it wrong?

July 18, 2017
A team of University at Buffalo medical doctors have published a study that challenges a surgical practice used for decades during arthroscopic knee surgery.

New tools help surgeons find liver tumors, not nick blood vessels

July 17, 2017
The liver is a particularly squishy, slippery organ, prone to shifting both deadly tumors and life-preserving blood vessels by inches between the time they're discovered on a CT scan and when the patient is lying on an operating ...

Researchers discover indicator of lung transplant rejection

July 13, 2017
Research by scientists at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center's Norton Thoracic Institute was published in the July 12, 2017 issue of Science Translational Medicine titled "Zbtb7a induction in alveolar ...

New device could make closing surgical incisions a cinch

July 7, 2017
Like many surgeons, Dr. Jason Spector is often faced with the challenge of securely closing the abdominal wall without injuring the intestines. If the process goes awry, there can be serious consequences for patients, including ...

Success with first 20 patients undergoing minimally invasive pancreatic transplant surgery

June 29, 2017
Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Medicine report that their first series of a minimally invasive procedure to treat chronic pancreas disease, known as severe pancreatitis, resulted in shorter hospital stays, less need for opioids ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.