Toxin tracking

Chemotherapy drugs are a lot like cats, release them into space and you never really know where they are going to go. Even when the same drug is used against the same sort of cancer in two different patients its behaviour can be very different. The worst part about this is that medics often can only work out where a drug has gone by monitoring patient health. It would be better to know immediately whether a drug is accumulating where medics want it to and now a team is revealing that they have found a way to do this.

The researchers behind the new work developed a tactic for attaching labels made of radionucleotides to specific cancer drugs that are carried inside tiny capsules called liposomes. They then used positron emission tomography scans to monitor the movement of the drugs in mice with different sorts of cancers. 

With mice suffering from breast and ovarian cancer, the team were encouraged to find that the drugs accumulated in tumours and bone tissue at levels well above those in normal tissues. However, in some female mice belonging to a specific genetic strain the drugs concentrated in their uteruses where no cancer cells were present. This is useful information and will become doubly so when this technique starts getting used in people. You can read more in The Economist article that I wrote on this here.