PET scan info can alter cancer treatment

Physicians participating in the National Oncologic PET Registry (NOPR; Philadelphia) reported changing the treatment plan for 43.1% of their patients undergoing cancer treatment as the result of information gained from a PET scan.

Data were analyzed for PET scans performed through the NOPR program specifically for monitoring cancer therapy. According to results published online Nov. 17 in the journal Cancer, the major changes physicians made in the intended management of their cancer patients as a result of the PET scan included: 1) changing to another chemotherapy agent, 2) changing the mode of therapy, or 3) changing the current dose or duration of therapy.

Currently, PET imaging is not considered the standard of care for monitoring the affects of cancer therapy and, therefore, is not paid for by most insurance companies. However, under Medicare's NOPR program launched in May 2006, the agency began paying for PET (and PET integrated with computed tomography) scans for the purpose of cancer treatment monitoring.

Cancer study shows benefit of diagnostic techniques

Results of a study led by researchers at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John's Health Center (Santa Monica, California) show that sensitive molecular diagnostic techniques can effectively identify early stage colorectal cancer patients believed to be cancer-free according to conventional methods. The findings could lead to more sensitive cancer detection, as well as more consistent ways of identifying patients who would benefit most from adjuvant therapy after surgery for colorectal cancer.

The study, "Prognostic Relevance of Occult Nodal Micrometastases and Circulating Tumor Cells in Colorectal Cancer in a Prospective Multicenter Trial," was published in the November edition of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

"Patients with colorectal cancer are at high risk of recurrence, and need to be staged more accurately to determine whether they need additional treatments such as adjuvant therapies that can save lives," said Dave Hoon, PhD, director of molecular oncology at JWCI and senior scientist on the study. "Our goal was to apply highly sensitive detection methods to specimens from early stage colorectal cancer patients, and evaluate whether these advanced methods could help predict which patients are likeliest to recur, so that they could receive more aggressive therapies."