Clinical trials of new anti-cancer drugs could be performed more quickly, effectively and economically if the latest imaging tools were routinely employed, according to experts from Cancer Research UK.

According to a review written by a Cancer Research UK advisory committee, to be published tomorrow (Wednesday) in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute*, too many study proposals do not take full advantage of technologies such as MRS (magnetic resonance spectroscopy) and PET (positron emission tomography). Without these tools, researchers could miss out on vital information about the effects of the drugs being tested.

The authors want to see more funding for the development of ways to make the most of these imaging tools, and to help routinely incorporate them in the design of early clinical trials in order to improve the speed and quality of drug development.

Lead author of the review and chair of Cancer Research UK’s PTAC** committee, Professor Paul Workman, based at the Cancer Research UK Centre for Cancer Therapeutics at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: “A fundamental part of clinical trials is that they should measure how drugs move through the body and what effects they have. Advances in technologies such as MRS and PET can improve how we monitor drugs, and can also reduce the need for invasive procedures such as biopsies.

“MRS and PET are increasingly available to researchers, allowing us to see inside cancer cells in the body. We need to ensure that we all make the best use of these technologies, which can often provide more detailed information than the alternatives.”

PET and MRS have the advantage that they reduce the need for taking blood samples and tissue biopsies, although invasive techniques will always remain a crucial part of the monitoring process.

Harpal Kumar, chief operating officer of Cancer Research UK, said: “Cancer Research UK already invests significantly in imaging technology and we plan to invest more in both equipment and specialists over the next few years to provide our institutes and clinical centres with the resources they need to accelerate drug development.

“This is just one aspect of how we plan to keep the UK at the forefront of cancer drug development.”


For media enquiries please contact Michael Regnier in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 7061 8309 or, out of hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264059.


* JNCI, Vol. 98, No. 9, May 3, 2006

** PTAC – Pharmacodynamic/Pharmacokinetic Technologies Advisory Committee

The term pharmacodynamic refers to what a drug does to the body, and pharmacokinetic to what the body does to the drug.

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