A Better Way to Diagnose and Treat Cancer

April 27, 2015

When actor Michael Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010, he went through seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy — “the seven circles of hell,” as he described it, a period marked by an inability to swallow, gum pain, loss of taste, dental pain.

Had he been diagnosed just a year later, Douglas might have benefited from molecular imaging, an emerging technology that allows doctors to precisely target a patient’s specific cancer cells. The approach allows for a reduction in radiation and chemotherapy and the debilitating side effects that accompany them. Standard radiation and chemotherapy treatment can spare, or extend, a patient’s life, but they often leave behind pain and dysfunction that erode quality of life for both patient and family.

“Molecular imaging has made a major impact in the way patients with cancer are treated,” says Peter Herscovitch, president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).

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Also see the companion story, How to Create a Cancer-seeking Tracer