Accelerated diagnosis and treatment of cancer soon a reality

Christi Cloete -- Mon, 05/25/2015 - 14:18

Accelerated diagnosis and treatment of cancer soon a reality

An initiative for accelerating medicine development is spreading as part of an association agreement between the North-West University (NWU), the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA). This can be attributed to the introduction of a scanner that significantly accelerates the diagnostic process for cancer-spread and tuberculosis.

According to Prof Anne Grobler, director of the Preclinical Drug Development Platform at the NWU, their research has been concentrating on the development of radio drugs and diagnostic drugs used for the treatment, the detection and the identification of cancer in the human body for quite some time. “The use of the Micro PET/CT scanner now enables us to determine much quicker and far better how the particular medication works in the body. The scanner is a first on the African continent and will initially be used to test the effect of our medication on animals. We will be able to determine much sooner which cancer to diagnose, where exactly it occurs, how far it has progressed, how the medication is being absorbed and how it is spreading in the body. It holds various advantages, such as administering a much more accurate dosage regarding the specific cancer and will thus eliminate many side effects of clinical trials and broad-spectrum treatments.”

It has cost the three stakeholders approximately R6 million and can in effect be described as a modern PET/CT scanner, except that it will be used on animals.”A PET/CT scanner is a device that forms a 3-dimensional image by means of radiation of a small amount of a radiopharmaceutical drug that has been administered and which is measured externally in a circle of detectors. The technique combines the anatomy and the physiology of the body in one image, particularly during diseases and is an extremely powerful diagnostic technique.

Prof Grobler says that apart from the R2 million that every stakeholder has contributed towards the development of the scanner, each also has a mammoth task in terms of expertise and research. The NWU is responsible for the further development and the evaluation of drugs. The UP, in turn, is responsible for the research that determines when the drugs may be administered to people as well as the interpretation of the images. NECSA provides the radioactive molecule that forms the basis of the future diagnosis and/or treatment. “This scanner enables research and applications that will result in more effective and safer treatment of cancer in the future. It opens investigations and studies in the medical world of South Africa that to date have been impossible,” she says.

The Micro PET/CT scanner will be positioned at NECSA’s facilities in Pelindaba, 30 km west of Pretoria.