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Cancer’s radiation revolution

Despite its bad reputation, radiation can be a lifesaver when used to detect, monitor or treat human diseases.

At King’s College London, researchers are investigating new ways to use radioactivity for cancer care. Their approach is to attach radioactivity to molecules that find and stick to cancer cells. The radioactive signal can then be detected by a scanner to produce an image, revealing not only the presence of cancer in the body but how much there is and where in the body it has spread to. This method can also be used for precision radiation therapy – killing cancer cells with radioactivity but affecting less of the surrounding healthy tissue.

Samantha Terry, who is carrying out the research says: ‘Our technique provides us with a window in to the body so we can see, in detail, where cancer cells are located and how much they have developed. The red areas show us that more cancer is present, and the blue areas illustrate that less disease is in this region. This allows us to target treatment to the correct areas more specifically.’

From 2-8th July 2018, a King’s team of chemists, biologists, physicists, engineers and clinicians will be explaining their work at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition. They will have a range of interactive demonstrations, including mobile detectors that can find the radioactivity in volunteers.