PET scanners help to monitor cancer cells in the body. It uses a radioactive tracer to identify the abnormal cells and inform the doctors of the next course of action. Recently, scientists developed an imaging agent that can trace multiple types of cancers, including a lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
The new imaging tracer works with the PET scanner to identify cervical, lung, and pancreatic cancers as well as the hard to detect idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), which is a lung disease that hardens the lung tissue.
In their bid to find a new way to identify early signs of pancreatic cancer, the scientists developed a tracer that clings to integrin alpha-v-beta-6, a special molecule that is located on the surface of the pancreatic cancer cells. When used on a PET scan, the tracer glows on the emission of radioactivity to allow doctors to identify its location in the body.
In a clinical trial to test the new tracer;
- Healthy patients and those with cancer or IPF were selected. The tracer produced accurate results that highlighted its great cancer and IPF detection potential. The tracer was approved by the FDA and tested to confirm that both cancer and IPF can be detected through a PET scan, and the procedure is safe.
While studies are underway to determine how early the tracer can detect pulmonary fibrosis, cancer, or other lung diseases, some patient data showed the potential of it detecting IPF early. It was discovered that the supposed healthy patient worked with birds, (coming in contact with animal/bird droppings or exposure to silica dust and coal mines increases the risk of developing IPF), and the tracer managed to detect IPF in their body.
This discovery is good news for IPF patients – that the hard to detect, killer disease can now be identified early using the new tracer. It will make it easy to treat the disease before it advances.