Visualising the effects of targeted therapies on patient tumours
The development of technology that can ‘see’ inside our bodies is one of the great achievements of modern medicine.1 For over 100 years, doctors have used imaging methods for this very reason to help guide patient care. Initially, two-dimensional x-ray pictures of bones and chests were used to help diagnose fractures and common lung diseases such as tuberculosis infection respectively.
However, in the last few decades the possibilities that medical imaging can offer have expanded hugely. This article considers the background to radiology in general, focuses on how pharmaceutical companies have used medical imaging in oncology drug development, and discusses how imaging may further assist strategic decision making in bringing new drugs to market.
In the 1970s computed tomography (CT) was introduced into medical practice. Here, physics and engineering sciences had combined to produce a technique capable of mapping the inner structures of the entire human body.2 The pioneers of CT realised that individual x-rays taken at multiple external reference points could be combined mathematically to create a three-dimensional picture. Not only did flat images of vital organs such as the lungs become three dimensional, but CT also enabled organs that had been very difficult to visualise, such as the brain, to become visible. Further, sophisticated ways of displaying these images allowed scientists to discriminate different soft tissue structures. This enabled organs to be distinguished from one another and allowed detection of tumours within solid organs. The advent of CT transformed the way in which neurological, oncological and other medical conditions were diagnosed and monitored.
Over subsequent years, the speed, functionality and versatility of CT has improved immeasurably and…