New scanner can help diagnose cancer earlier

2015-05-25 17:58

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Johannesburg - A new R6m scanner, the first of its kind in Africa, will help South African researchers detect and treat cancer in humans much earlier and more efficiently by showing researchers the effects of certain drugs on animals.

The Micro PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computed tomography) scanner cost North West University (NWU), the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) R2m each.

The scanner forms a 3D image of a subject by administering them with a "radiopharmaceutical drug".  

It is effectively like PET/CT scanners in hospitals, except this one will be used on animals. The resulting data and research will be used to treat humans with cancer.

Anne Grobler, who is the director of the Preclinical Drug Development Platform at NWU, said the university had spent a considerable amount of time researching diagnostic drugs used for the treatment, detection and identification of cancer in human body. 

"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," she said.

"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."

NWU will be responsible for the further development and evaluation of drugs, while UP will research when the drugs may be administered to people and interpret the scanner's images. 

Necsa will provide the radioactive molecule that forms the basis for diagnosis 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,” says Grobler.

The scanner will be housed at Necsa's facilities in Pelindaba, 30km west of Pretoria.

Read more on:    university of pretoria  |  necsa  |  north west university  |  health

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