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Diagnosing Tumours

At Jülich, pharmacologists, chemists, physicists and medical doctors work in close cooperation to refine methods for diagnosing and treating brain tumours and other neurological disorders. To this end, they develop, for example, radioactive pharmaceuticals that accumulate selectively in tumour tissue and can then be located down to the exact millimetre with the aid of positron emission tomography (PET). In addition, they work on the use of new combined devices that enable even more precise diagnosis.

At the Jülich labs, radiopharmaceuticals, also referred to as markers, are developed – and are also tested in clinical studies. Around 25 years ago, scientists at Jülich already discovered and patented a ground-breaking synthesis technique for one of the most important PET markers (18FDG – fluorine deoxyglucose). Today, some two million patients throughout the world benefit from this technique. In 2009, scientists at Forschungszentrum Jülich achieved a further breakthrough in the production of an important substance that can be used for diagnosing Parkinson's disease as well as for patients with brain tumours, and also to search for certain tumours in the body. Although this particular marker (18F-DOPA) has already been approved for use in medical diagnostics because of its outstanding properties, it has rarely been used due to its ineffective production process. The new synthesis technique developed at Jülich will now make the marker widely available and its price will substantially decrease, thus clearing the way for widespread application. Another radioactive amino acid produced at Jülich (a protein building block – 18F-FET), which functions as a PET marker, can also be used to predict how aggressively a tumour is growing and whether a cancer treatment that has been initiated is having an effect or not.

More Precise Insight thanks to Hybrid Technology

In order to obtain even more exact information on the type, aggressivity and spread of a tumour, new imaging methods are tested at Jülich. One such technique is "hybrid imaging", for which positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are combined in a single device. This combination opens up unique possibilities, simultaneously recording structural and biochemical processes and offering outstanding prospects for clinical application with neurological disorders. Examples of use include the diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours and early diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.