Open cancer surgery set to become a thing of the past

Sep 24, 2008

The surgeon's knife is playing an ever smaller role in the treatment of cancer, as it is replaced by increasingly efficient and safe radiation therapy techniques. Progress in radiation technology will also lead to better detection rates for cancer. This is according to Professor Freek Beekman, who will give his inaugural speech at Delft University of Technology on Wednesday, 24 September.

In his inaugural address, Kanker, krijg de straling , Professor Beekman says that radiation in the form of photons or particles is playing an increasingly important role in the detection and treatment of cancer. The low concentrations of radioactive molecules which gather in tumours, known as 'tumour seekers', show up well with techniques such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT). Such techniques mean that tumours can be discovered earlier more often than using X-rays, and it is also more often possible to ascertain properties of tumour cells without removing a sample of the tissue. Doctors can choose the best treatment for the individual patient more quickly and easily.

Destroying tumours by using radiation, rather than chemotherapy and operations, is also becoming an ever more common method of treatment and, Beekman says, the accuracy of this kind of therapy has improved considerably in recent years. When cancer is treated using external beams of radiation (as in radiotherapy), it is actually not only the tumour that is exposed to large amounts of radiation, but also any healthy tissue that is in the way of the beam. 'One example of a very powerful emerging technique is the use of a radiation beam consisting of particles (protons), instead of photons. This kind of beam reaches its peak intensity at the site of the tumour. This greatly reduces radiation damage in healthy tissue around the tumour.'

Finally, it is increasingly possible to treat tumours internally, for example by using tumour seekers that emit particles and destroy the tumour on the spot. If this kind of treatment only reaches the tumour and avoids harming healthy tissue, it will make this method superior to proton therapy.

At Delft University of Technology, Beekman will focus particularly on improving medical instruments, such as the U-SPECT scanner he developed himself. This Ultra-high resolution Single Photon Emission Computed Tomographer has significant advantages over other scanning techniques. The challenge is now to make the U-SPECT more precise and more versatile and use it to create better tumour seekers. The U-SPECT is now only available for use with small laboratory animals, but a version for humans is in the design phase. The diagnosis and treatment of cancer could, according to Beekman, be greatly improved by sharper SPECT images of patients. Various tracers mean that metastases, for example, are visible more quickly. We also hope that the effectiveness of chemotherapy can be seen very soon after beginning treatment by using the right tumour seekers, or even stop therapy with little chance of success from being started at all.

Source: Delft University of Technology

Explore further: Pembrolizumab shows real promise against head and neck cancer

Related Stories

NSA winds down once-secret phone-records collection program

2 hours ago

The National Security Agency has begun winding down its collection and storage of American phone records after the Senate failed to agree on a path forward to change or extend the once-secret program ahead of its expiration ...

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

2 hours ago

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

Uber drivers fined in Hungary

3 hours ago

The Hungarian tax authority fined Uber drivers in its first probe against the ride-sharing service which the economy ministry said Saturday "ignores passenger safety" and must be made to follow regulations.

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

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.