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Sugar helps 'light-up' cancer in MRI scanners

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Researchers have made a breakthrough for detecting by imaging the sugar consumption with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The new breakthrough may help provide a safer and simpler alternative to standard radioactive techniques and enable radiologists to image tumours in greater detail.

The new technique, called 'glucose chemical exchange saturation transfer' (glucoCEST), is based on the fact that tumours consume more glucose (a type of sugar) than normal, healthy tissues in order to sustain their growth.

The researchers found that sensitising an MRI scanner to glucose uptake caused tumours to appear as bright images on MRI scans of mice.

Lead researcher Dr Simon Walker-Samuel, from the UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI) said that GlucoCEST uses radio waves to magnetically label glucose in the body.

He asserted that this can then be detected in tumours using conventional MRI techniques.

Walker-Samuel said that the method uses an injection of normal sugar and could offer a cheap, safe alternative to existing methods for detecting tumours, which require the injection of radioactive material.

Professor Mark Lythgoe, Director of CABI and a senior author on the study, said that they can detect cancer using the same sugar content found in half a standard sized chocolate bar.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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