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