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Research Targets Liver Tumor Diagnosis and Treatment

A new protein generated by researchers at the UT Graduate School of Medicine to image amyloid, a substance associated with Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes, may be put to another novel use as a tool in an investigation to more accurately diagnose, and potentially treat, liver tumors.

The protein, named p5, was developed by a team of researchers led by Jonathan Wall, PhD, director of the Preclinical and Diagnostic Molecular Imaging Laboratory. It is being researched with the help of funding from the National Institutes of Health. P5 and related peptides have now gained the attention of Laura Findeiss, MD, Associate Professor and Chair of Radiology, at the UT Graduate School of Medicine.

Dr. Findeiss said that she and Dr. Wall are examining the protein as a way to diagnose types of liver tumors using PET imaging. Several distinct types of tumors can develop on this organ, either metastasizing from another part of the body or evolving in the liver cells themselves. Knowing a liver tumor's type is critical to treating it, and Findeiss is searching for minimally invasive image-guided techniques that can help in diagnosis.

If the effort is successful, p5 will bind to tumor cells so that the cells light up in PET scans. This will allow radiologists such as Dr. Findeiss to diagnose the type of liver tumor a patient has more accurately and to prescribe the most effective treatment plan.

In addition to imaging tumors, p5 may also enable Dr. Findeiss to better treat patients by "microtargeting" tumors with radiation. Traditionally, chemotherapy is delivered through the bloodstream, but the problem is that the chemicals are carried throughout the body, not just to the affected tumor tissues. Using agents, such as p5, that bind to tumor cells, physicians can target cancer therapy directly to malignant tissue, saving healthy tissue throughout the body and providing a better outcome for the patient.

Posted March 25, 2014

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