The National Cancer Institute runs a Cancer Imaging Program (CIP), whose mission is to promote cancer-related research in imaging technology and biosciences, and to apply this research to the understanding and management of cancer and its associated risks. The program originated as the Diagnostic Imaging Program in 1996 and was renamed the Biomedical Imaging Program in 2001. It assumed its current designation in 2003, and was reorganized into four distinct branches to facilitate the administration of federal grant funding: Molecular Imaging, Imaging Technology Development, Diagnostic Imaging, and Image-Guided Intervention.
The program’s goals focus on speeding up the development and use of imaging systems that will advance new methods of cancer research and care. The CIP tries to create the infrastructure to facilitate the discovery of new image-enabled interventions for precancerous and cancerous conditions. The development of standardized clinical trial models is a critical element of validating the intervention methods.
The goals also target gaining a better understanding of cancer biology through the development and use of molecular imaging technology. Part of that technology is directed at identifying cancer biomarkers through specific imaging validation methods. This may include surrogate endpoints which include physical indications and lab measurements that may substitute for traditional clinical endpoints. The patient’s feelings and ability to function are gauged, and changes resulting from any treatment at that stage would likely cause changes in a clinical endpoint.
This program is performing a critical role in the development of groundbreaking technologies such as proteomics which is the comprehensive study of the functions and structures of proteins. Testing for proteins produced in the body by certain diseases may be used as biomarkers to allow early diagnosis. The NCI has also created the Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer to invest directly in nanomedicine, which involves altering cell structures and properties in tiny dimensions. Additionally, it is investing in advanced screening technologies and imaging strategies that will identify and monitor patients’ responses to pre-cancer therapies.
Advantages of Cancer Imaging
The benefits of imaging include early screening, diagnosis and staging, selecting treatments and tracking their effectiveness, and monitoring for recurrence and metastasis. Screening for mesothelioma is sometimes recommended for those who have significant asbestos exposure.
Experience has shown that the earlier mesothelioma is detected, the higher the likelihood that effective treatment is possible. Imaging provides effective techniques for producing pictures of the human body, thereby increasing the odds of detection. .
Imaging identifies more precisely where cancer is located and the extent of its advancement. It can determine if the cancer is accessible to surgery and if it is in or near critical organs and blood vessels. Imaging can make biopsy procedures less invasive by steering the doctor directly to the tumor. With ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) scans, therapy can be targeted precisely so as to minimize damage to healthy tissue and organs. Chemical changes in tumors can be detected by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. This information is invaluable if surgery is contemplated, and greatly enhances the ability to effectively choose among possible treatments.
MRI and CT scanning can be used to obtain three-dimensional views of the insides of body cavities. Once cancer treatment has commenced, imaging can determine if a tumor has changed in size and if it is still drawing the same amount of resources from healthy tissue. MRI, CT scans, X-rays, positron emission tomography (PET) aid in diagnosis and treatment and can help measure oxygen consumption, blood flow, and glucose metabolism as a means of evaluating the functionality of vital organs.
In a process known as image fusion, images from nuclear medicine, MRI, and CT can be overlaid to produce superimposed views. This process aids in the correlation and study of multiple diagnostic sources and results in faster and more efficient analysis of the information presented.
Source for information on this page: National Cancer Institute