Lowering medical radiation dose with CT and other modalities in cancer patients

It is often said that radiation from diagnostic imaging is not an important issue in cancer patients.

But this report suggests otherwise – as expressed by oncologists.

Many patients with cancer are young and/or are being treated for cure. Many have long life expectancies despite having cancer.

And the basic principal of “Do no harm” plus that of ALARA still apply – as much to cancer patients as to any other patient with a serious disease.

So we should be striving for maximal diagnostic information from minimal radiation dose with CT and other modalities in cancer patients, too.

Radiology on the Horizon: Can a Pill Prevent Cancer?

In July’s Radiology, a new study was featured that suggests that a new pill can prevent DNA damage that might lead to cancer. Researchers analyzed DNA double strand breaks (a precursor lesion to cancer) before and after X-raying human blood that had been mixed with the pill, a compound of antioxidants and glutathione-elevating agents.

At this point, the most common way to prevent radiation damage, which can damage the DNA, is lowering the radiation dose level and exposure timeshielding, and staying away from radioactive sources. However, further research may prove that this pill could be an additional way to prevent radiation damage. According to this study, there was a 58 percent reduction in double strand breaks from subjects who ingested the compound one hour prior to imaging.

The idea is in its first stages so it remains experimental and esoteric, but my esteemed colleague, James Brink, MD, from Yale has done an analysis of the research. He says:

“The study was very exciting from a methodological standpoint. I was impressed with the methods by which the authors were able to assess the formation of double strand breaks in response to low doses of ionizing radiation using the fluorescent tagging technique.

I’m respectful of the challenges, but without a clear-cut identifiable clinical benefit, we only have a laboratory benefit. While many lab studies on the biochemistry of antioxidants have been encouraging, some clinical studies have not shown antioxidants to be beneficial to subjects. That’s why we’d want to be cautious about jumping the gun.”

Though additional research must be done to assess the widespread benefits of the use of this compound prior to imaging, its potential benefits could be great for radiation damage reduction.