Monday, March 26, 2007

Medicinal chemists may make breast cancers glow for the camera!


on mammograms are not a good sign. These little white dits of calcium can indicate a developing malignant tumor. Some of us are awash in breast microcalcifications, but mammograms can't always tell which are benign.

If you've undergone one of those creepy stereotactic biopsies where the radiologist goes fishing for calcium, you'll be pleased by this news from Dr. John Frangioni in Boston. He and his colleagues have discovered that microcalcifications of the cancerous variety are hydroxyapetite deposits whereas benign mineral collections are generally calcium oxalate. While mammographic imaging can't distinguish one from the other, these Harvard chemists have discovered a way to make those bad boy hydroxyapetite crystals glow infrared.

By injecting pigs and mice with a bisphosphonate drug (think Fosamax and Actonel) that's hooked up with a compound called PAM800 that emits infrared light, the scientists have successfully put purple chemical highlights on hydroxyapetite microcalcifications in the animals. They are hopeful that this line of research will lead someday to successful infrared imaging devices that can pinpoint early cancers by the quality of their calcium.

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