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Dr. Azeem Saleem 2009 Award

Research Institution: University of Manchester, Academic Radiation Oncology Dr. Azeem Saleem

Award: £150,000   Duration: 2009-2011

Project Title: Pilot study to evaluate the pathological basis and utility of FLT-PET/CT and FDG-PET/CT in therapy development in pancreatic cancer

Research Aims: The diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer remains a challenge, as the majority of patients are diagnosed at a late stage. Recent advances in molecular biology have improved our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of cancer and novel drugs that target these mechanisms are being discovered. However, it takes several years before a drug is available for clinical use and with a high attrition rate, only a fraction of potential drugs are ultimately suitable for clinical use.

The advent of non-invasive imaging methods such as positron emission tomography (PET) provides a unique opportunity to monitor disease processes in the body and to gain information on the action and effectiveness of new therapies. PET images complement tumour size details provided by the commonly used CT or MRI scans by providing information on tumour function. In this pilot study, we will compare expression of cancer markers and their aggressiveness across whole pancreatic tumours, as shown by laboratory staining, with functional PET images of the same tumours.

To obtain PET images, we will use small, safe doses of radioactivity attached to markers which indicate increased tumour cell activity and tumour multiplication rate. It is anticipated that this will increase our understanding of pancreatic cancer and, by integrating PET scans in the drug development process, potentially aid in the development of new anti-cancer agents.

Since changes in tumour function pre-date changes in tumour size, we also plan to assess if it feasible to use such changes to assess early response to chemotherapy and whether PET image changes can predict prognosis. If such a mechanistic relationship is established, it would be possible to integrate PET imaging during drug development in a rational manner and potentially improve outcome for patients with pancreatic cancer.

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