A simple and non-invasive imaging method can effectively replace the current practice in determining appropriateness of breast cancer treatment, thereby reducing the need for invasive tissue sampling, new research has found.
The results suggest that the method might lead to more optimal treatment of individual patients.
“The new method might substitute invasive tissue sampling in the near future,” said one of the researchers Jens Sorensen from Uppsala University in Sweden.
Measuring the growth factor HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor type 2) is an important tool for deciding correct treatment in breast cancer.
Treatments targeting HER2 are expensive but save the lives of many women.
The current diagnosis of elevated HER2 expression is based on examination of tissue samples obtained by surgery or needle biopsies from the liver, bones and other organs.
The aim of the current study was to develop a simpler and non-invasive technique, based on whole-body PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computerised tomography) imaging, and compare the results of image analysis to the invasive measurements in the same patients.
The study included 16 women with on-going treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
Metastatic cancer refers to the spread of the disease from the part of the body where it originated to other parts of the body.
The results showed that the amount of HER2-expression in the metastases was accurately measured with the new method.
In addition, the amount of HER2-expression in the metastases was frequently found to be different from the primary tumour, leading to a change in therapy in several patients.
“Our study resulted in two patients starting therapy and one patient ending therapy with HER2-targeting drugs,” Sorensen said.
The study was published in the journal Theranostics.