Biopsies trump imaging in cancer-spread trial

In addition to testing a new cancer treatment regimen, researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, OH, are indirectly testing the effectiveness of imaging in tracking disease progression. Joe Baar of UH's Seidman Cancer Center is running a pilot study that replaces scans with biopsies in women being treated for HER-2 neu+ breast cancer who have a high rate of recurrence.

Traditional imaging, such as CT scans and bone scans, can't detect microscopic metastases, the rebel cancer cells that spread from the breast to the bone marrow or other body parts in the fast-spreading disease. Baar is attempting to improve the outcomes for those who have the disease and a high rate of recurrence by performing bone marrow biopsies rather than using scans to determine if the cancer has spread.

When a biopsy indicates the disease has spread, he'll administer an additional cancer-targeting drug--Avastin--to the standard therapy in hopes of eliminating the micro-metastases from bone marrow. The study is funded by Genentech.

- here's the release

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