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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Cancer scan imaging breakthrough
MRI scanner
The compound helps show up cancer more effectively
A new chemical compound to help doctors detect cancers without carrying out intrusive biopsies has been created.

Scientists at Durham University have developed a substance containing fluorine, which can be given to a patient before an MRI scan.

The chemical responds differently to the varying acidity in the body so that tumours can be highlighted and appear in contrast or light up on the scan.

The work could benefit the diagnosis of breast, liver or prostate cancer.

Professor David Parker, of Durham University's Department of Chemistry, said: "There is very little fluorine present naturally in the body so the signal from our compound stands out.

Commercial partners

"When it is introduced in this form it acts differently depending on the acidity levels in a certain area, offering the potential to locate and highlight cancerous tissue.

"We have taken an important first step towards the development of a selective new imaging method."

The university has now filed a patent on the new approach and is looking for commercial partners to help develop the research.

The research was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council which asked scientists to come up with better ways of imaging cancer, and the findings appear in the academic journal Chemical Communications.

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