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Testicular trial puts PET scanner to the test

The Cancer Research UK logo
by Cancer Research UK | News

26 June 2002

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The world’s largest trial to see if a new scanner can improve treatment for testicular cancer patients has been launched by Cancer Research UK.

Scientists funded by the charity will use a sophisticated PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan to search for early signs of cancer spread in order to identify those at risk of relapse after surgery.

The PET scanner relies on differences in the way tumour cells and normal tissue metabolise glucose to hunt down the active tumour tissue.

Patients will be injected with a glucose compound (FDG1) tagged with a harmless amount of radioactive tracer which the PET scanner picks up.

Tumour cells absorb more of the glucose compound than normal cells to produce energy for their rapid growth and spread. The PET scanner uses this difference to locate and capture an image of cancerous cells in the body.

Researchers believe that this method will be more sensitive than previous techniques for detecting cancer spread and may even be able to pick up tumours as small as two millimetres in size.

Team leader Dr Robert Huddart, of The Institute of Cancer Research, says: “PET scanning is currently being evaluated for a number of cancers, including breast and lung cancer but this is the first study testing its performance on testicular cancer.

“We will be assessing how accurate the PET scan is at picking up early signs of cancer spread to see whether it can play a key role in the management of the disease.”

The three-year trial will recruit 135 men with early testicular cancer in a number of centres across the UK. Patients with scans that detect cancer spread will receive chemotherapy alongside surgery to help keep their cancer at bay.

Dr Robert Huddart says: “If this scanning process is successful, men at risk of relapse can be more precisely identified so that chemotherapy is targeted at those who need it, while patients whose cancer will not come back can be spared unnecessary drug treatment.”

Professor Gordon McVie, Director General of Cancer Research UK, says: “It’s vital that we test new techniques that may help us to tailor treatments to individuals. This means we can improve both the effectiveness of therapies and patients’ quality of life.”


  1. FDG – Fluoro-deoxy glucose