Glowing Amino Acid To Spot Brain Cancer

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Glowing Amino Acid To Spot Brain Cancer
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An amino acid tagged with a glowing tracer compound could be used to spot the growing brain cancer, says Sriram Venneti and his team in a study titled “Glutamine-based PET imaging facilitates enhanced metabolic evaluation of gliomas in vivo” in Science Translational Medicine, on Feb 11, 2015.

Glutamine, an amino acid tagged with a tracer compound, when injected into a brain cancer patient, the spot of the tumour growth could be detected with high accuracy, say the researchers. Glucose and glutamine supply energy to the malignant cells in patients with glioma, a glial cell cancer. The glial cells, the neuron support cells crave for nutrients when cancerous, therefore, the tracer tagged glutamine can be used to monitor the cancer closely with a brain scan, says Venneti.

The tracer is tagged with glutamine, leaving the glucose behind because glucose is taken up by all the brain cells, whereas the cancerous glial cells are thirsty for glutamine and readily gobble them. When tested in mice with glioma, the glutamine tagged with the radioactive tracer was readily taken up by the glial cells but not by the healthy cells. The tracer is then viewed through the positron emission tomography or PET scan. Thus, the delineation of the tumours can be visualizsd, say scientists from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The glutamine tagged with radioactive tracer was given to six glioma patients and were monitored in the brain scan. The glutamine was readily gobbled by aggressive brain tumours, whereas minimally taken up by stable ones, reported the researchers. Hence, this imaging technique might be useful for doctors in tracking the growth of cancer in brain, said the author.

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