New Non-invasive Technique Developed by NFCR-supported Scientist May Significantly Improve Detection and Treatment of Metastatic Cancer

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This new genetic-based imaging technique is able to detect cancerous cells through expression of a gene called AEG-1.

National Foundation for Cancer Research

Because AEG-1 is expressed in the majority of cancers, this research could potentially lead to earlier detection and treatment of metastases originating from a variety of cancer types.

The very first sensitive and specific molecular imaging technique to detect bone metastases was recently developed by NFCR-funded scientist Paul B. Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D., at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine in collaboration with Martin G. Pomper, M.D., Ph.D., at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

This new genetic-based imaging technique is able to detect cancerous cells through expression of a gene called AEG-1, which was originally discovered by Dr. Fisher. AEG-1 is expressed at high levels in all cancer types investigated so far, with limited expression in normal tissue.

Importantly, laboratory work with metastatic tumor models demonstrated that this technique was even able to detect prostate cancer lesions that have metastasized (spread) to the bone. Bone metastasis is the number one cause of death for patients with prostate cancer.

“Bone metastases are notoriously difficult to detect with molecular imaging,” said Dr. Fisher. There is currently no sensitive and specific imaging technique clinically available to detect cancer in the bones. The results indicate that this new technique represents a great improvement over current clinical imaging techniques.

“We expect this to have applications well beyond bone metastasis in prostate cancer,” said Dr. Fisher. “Because AEG-1 is expressed in the majority of cancers, this research could potentially lead to earlier detection and treatment of metastases originating from a variety of cancer types.”

The imaging system may even have applications beyond diagnostic imaging; it has been suggested that it could be combined with therapeutic agents, allowing physicians to image drug delivery in real time. Dr. Fisher and colleagues are working to overcome the remaining obstacles and move this technology into the clinic as soon as possible.

“Dr. Fisher’s work represents a true breakthrough in the fight against cancer,” said Franklin Salisbury, Jr., president of the National Foundation for Cancer Research “At NFCR we firmly believe that basic research can and should be translated from the bench to the bedside. This is what we mean by Research for a Cure.”

This work was funded in part by the National Foundation for Cancer Research. The results were published in the September 18, 2014 Online First edition of the journal Cancer Research.

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research

The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading cancer research charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside.

Since 1973, NFCR has provided over $320 million in support of discovery-oriented cancer research focused on understanding how and why cells become cancerous, and on public education relating to cancer prevention, detection, and treatment. NFCR scientists are discovering cancer's molecular mysteries and translating these discoveries into therapies that hold the hope for curing cancer. NFCR is about Research for a Cure - cures for all types of cancer. For more information, please visit http://www.NFCR.org.

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Adam Belmar
National Foundation for Cancer Research
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