Tübingen - The combination of image data from positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) with protein and metabolic data enables more precise picture of the processes in tumor. This is what scientists from the University of Tübingen report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 2018, doi:).
"We shouldn't think of tumor as homogeneous unit," explained Bernd Pichler from the University of Tübingen. Rather, there are different signaling pathways and receptors and different proteins in different areas of tumor, which are of fundamental importance for signal transmission in cells. "Against this background, it is insufficient to just do biopsy if you want to understand the tumor in its entirety," emphasized the researcher. After all, when tumor is biopsied, only small tissue sample is usually taken and analyzed.
Multimodal imaging technologies
The scientists therefore rely on multimodal imaging technologies that combine several methods with simultaneous measurement, for example PET and CT. According to the authors, this is still not enough. “We still know very little about the molecular causes of the tissue changes and the effects on the further course of tumor growth. The high-throughput methods can provide better information on this, ”said Marcel Krüger, one of the first authors of the study.
In procedures such as proteome or metabolome analysis, the entire protein inventory of sample - the proteome - or all existing metabolic products - the metabolome - are systematically recorded. "This gives us detailed insight into the molecular processes in the tissue samples, but without any connection to spatial information," added the other first author, Jonathan Disselhorst. The scientists now had the idea of combining the advantages of both methods.
"The prerequisite is that we use the images to prepare the samples for the proteome and metabolome analysis can be taken spatially precisely ”, explained Pichler. This has to be done quickly because the metabolic processes in tumor change in very short time after surgical removal. Therefore, the tissue samples would have to be frozen immediately after they were taken.
The scientists were able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new method in animal experiments. According to the researchers, it has great potential for clinical application. “It is conceivable, for example, after surgical removal of human tumor, to freeze it immediately and to precisely determine its biological and pathophysiological profile with the new method,” explained Pichler.
In the medium term, the goal must be the To adapt the treatment of patients to the specifics of their illness, i.e. to personalize them. The most comprehensive possible combination of image data and data from protein and metabolic analysis can contribute to this.