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Innovative Imaging May Allow Earlier Cancer Diagnosis

Innovative Imaging May Allow Earlier Cancer Diagnosis

ABSTRACT: Every 3 years, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) asks cancer researchers, advisory groups, and advocacy organizations to recommend important areas to which it should devote additional resources. NCI defines such "extraordinary opportunities for investment" as "broad-based, overarching areas of scientific pursuit that hold tremendous promise for significantly expanding our understanding of cancer." This is the second in a series of interviews exploring the progress and promise of NCI’s six current extraordinary opportunities: genes and the environment, cancer imaging, defining the signature of cancer cells, molecular targets of prevention and treatment, research on tobacco and tobacco-related cancers, and cancer communications.

BETHESDA, Maryland—Improvements in medical imaging over the last
quarter century have greatly expanded early cancer detection and the accuracy
of diagnosis. Yet imaging’s potential for detecting specific activity within
cells, helping develop and target new therapies, and assessing prognosis
remains in an early stage.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has set the goal for its extraordinary
opportunity in cancer imaging as the "accelerated discovery and
development of imaging methods that will predict clinical course and response
to interventions."

In this interview, Ellen Feigal, MD, acting director of NCI’s Division of
Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, discusses the Institute’s program with
Patrick Young, ONI Washington Bureau Chief.

Oncology News International: How does NCI define cancer imaging in the year 2002?

Dr. Feigal: We are not talking just about anatomic imaging, but also about
identifying the physiological, cellular, and molecular processes that are
taking place in the human body. The ability to image the molecular changes
associated with a tumor cell will improve our ability to detect and stage
tumors, select appropriate treatments, monitor their effectiveness, and
determine prognosis.

To accomplish this will require integrating the growing body of scientific
knowledge in tumor genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry.

ONI: How would you compare cancer imaging today with, say, 25 years ago?

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