Wouldn't it be great if we could just scan the body every now and then to find cancers before they spread all over? In many ways this is one of the most important issues in cancer therapy today. And the time for this technology might be here.
About 18 months ago, I told you about a new technology that uses existing PET scan machines to use a non-radioactive form of glucose (the sugar our bodies use to make energy) to find cancers. This is important because existing PET scans use radioactive glucose.
As you may know, cancers need glucose to survive. Unlike healthy cells, they can't metabolize fat. So they must rely completely on glucose for the energy they need to survive. Although this is not true for every single kind of cancer, it's the case in the majority of cancers. So years ago, scientists figured out that if you give a person radioactive glucose and that person has a cancer in his or her body, the cancer will take up large amounts of the glucose – amounts that are much greater than normal tissues would take up.
Then you could use the equivalence of a Geiger counter to see if there was any place in the body that had excessive levels of the radioactive glucose uptake. If you do find an area with excessive uptake, that area is probably a cancer. This is what hospitals around the world do every day.
But the radioactivity limits the use of these PET scans. First, you would not want to expose someone to that much radiation just to look for the possible presence of a cancer. It's just not worth it. Second, you can't see cancers less than one centimeter (about 3/8 inch) on PET scans. Now, a new discovery by a team of scientists at the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging in London may have solved these problems.
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These researchers have found a way to detect the uptake of glucose in the same way that PET scans do, but with two important differences. One, they can use regular, non-radioactive glucose. And two, they can find smaller cancers. So imagine the implications. You could go into a hospital every now and then and have your whole body scanned for cancer with absolutely no dangers or side effects. If they found a cancer, it could be treated long before it was "too late."
The scientists found a way to sensitize an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner so that it can detect glucose uptake. As you probably already know, unlike CT scans and X-rays, MRIs do not use radiation. And they can also find cancers that are too small to be detected on a PET scan. The new technique is called "glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer" or GlucoCEST for short. Lead researcher Dr. Simon Walker Samuel explained how it works, "GlucoCEST uses radio waves to magnetically label glucose in the body. This can then be detected in tumors using conventional MRI techniques." Here's how it works.
"The method uses an injection of normal sugar," says Dr. Samuel, "and could offer a cheap and safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumors, which require the injection of radioactive material." Professor Mark Lythgoe, a senior author on the study, said: "We can detect cancer using the same sugar content found in half a standard-sized chocolate bar. Our research reveals a useful and cost-effective method for imaging cancers using MRI, a standard imaging technology available in many large hospitals." He continued: "In the future, patients could potentially be scanned in local hospitals, rather than being referred to specialist medical centers." But before you get too excited, there is one problem with the procedure.
The studies so far have done this only on mice. And it won't be until studies are done on humans that GlucoCEST becomes available commercially. This will probably take three to five years. So until then, my advice is what it has always been — the best treatment for cancer is not to get it in the first place. You can do that by all the good lifestyle stuff you hear me preach about: get enough sleep, don't stress, forgive and forget, eat healthy, stay at a high level of fitness, and take your hormones. You can find tons of particular information on how to best do all this in the archives (www.secondopinionnewsletter.com) and in my book Bursting With Energy. And don't forget to take your supplements, particularly my Super Immune QuickStart, one scoop twice a day on the weekdays for three months and then once a day thereafter.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Sugar makes cancer light up in MRI scanners. ScienceDaily