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Detecting tumour cell death after novel therapy

Scientists have demonstrated ​​that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to detect early signs of tumour cell death in response to a novel virus-based cancer therapy.

Recently, a promising therapeutic virus that selectively kills cancer cells while sparing normal tissue has sparked hope for treating aggressive brain tumours.

To further optimise the virus-based therapy, frequent non-invasive monitoring of the treatment response must be performed. This is crucial to understand the interactions between the virus and cancer cells, such as the extent of virus spread within the tumour and therapeutic response.

The researchers used quantitative molecular MRI images to measure multiple tissue properties, including tissue pH and protein concentration, that are altered with cell death.

This method allows therapeutic response monitoring much earlier. The treatment responses were visible just 48 hours after viral therapy, long before any changes in tumour volume were observed.

Co-author Christian Farrar said: “We programmed an MRI scanner to create unique signal 'fingerprints' for different molecular compounds and cellular pH.

A deep learning neural network was used to decode the fingerprints and generate quantitative pH and molecular maps.

“The MRI molecular fingerprinting method was validated in a mouse brain tumour study where the tumours were treated with a novel virus-based therapy that selectively killed cancer cells.”

Image credit | Shutterstock

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