Innovative methods of cancer diagnostics: best tests

Medically reviewed: 25, December 2023

Read Time:9 Minute

Cancer diagnostics – best methods


Cytokines are a particular group of hormones involved in the control of your immune system. They are also involved in your body’s response to viral and other infectious diseases, cancer, toxic shock, allergy, autoimmune and rheumatic diseases. Their measurement can provide Cancer Treatment Centers of America researchers with additional information about your immune status.

For example:

  • IL-2 has been shown to mediate multiple immune responses and promote the growth of natural killer cells and lymphocyte-activated killer cells (LAK).
  • IL-6 is believed to play a major role in the mediation of the inflammatory and immune responses initiated by infection or injury, and elevated levels have been reported to be associated with a variety of malignancies, including lymphomas and ovarian cancer.
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor – Alpha (TNF-a) plays a critical role in normal host resistance to infections, and to the growth of malignant tumors.

Tumor markers

To detect the presence of cancer within your body, and to monitor your response to therapy, state-of-the-art laboratory facilities at Cancer Treatment Centers of America use a procedure that analyzes blood-borne substances produced by cancer cells. This test is called a tumor marker panel. We use a series of markers at CTCA:

  • CA15-3 is a sensitive tumor marker for primary, preoperative and metastatic breast cancer. If you have breast cancer, it will be used in conjunction with other tests to evaluate the need for surgical intervention.
  • CA19-9 antigen has been shown to be elevated in the blood of some patients with gastrointestinal tumors. It is helpful during your post-therapeutic monitoring to determine the success of therapy, or can be used serially to ascertain the development of recurrence.
  • CA-125 is a highly useful marker for monitoring disease progression in ovarian cancers.
  • CEA, or Carcinoembryonic Antigen, is useful in monitoring patients with various types of malignancies. It is used to evaluate your response to therapy, and as a possible indicator of recurrence and prognosis.

Extreme drug resistance

One of the innovative ways Cancer Treatment Centers of America tailors a treatment plan for each individual is by using the Extreme Drug Resistance (EDR) Assay (or Chemosensitivity). The EDR is a highly accurate test for solid tumors, which determines the probability of a tumor’s resistance to specific chemotherapeutic drugs.

If the tumor cells grow in the presence of extreme exposure to a drug, this indicates the presence of significant drug resistance.

Therefore, if the tumor is resistant to a drug in this assay, then the tumor growing in a patient’s body will almost certainly be resistant to that drug. With this information, the CTCA physicians can avoid unnecessary toxicity, consider other treatment protocols, and minimize costs.

Flow Cytometry

Another innovative form of laboratory analysis utilized by Cancer Treatment Centers of America to help you beat cancer is flow cytometry, which is an integral part of the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) process. Flow cytometry is used to evaluate the risk of recurrence of certain cancers, by measuring the amount of DNA in your cells.

If you have breast, prostate, or bladder cancer, an abnormal amount (whether too much or too little) may indicate a recurrence. This sophisticated technique, which measures DNA in just minutes, can help predict a recurrence and enable your care team to take further preventative steps with you.

To help the experts at CTCA evaluate your condition and response to chemotherapy treatment, CD34 counts are performed on all transplant products.

Fluorescence Bronchoscopy

Early and accurate diagnosis of lung cancer has, up until recently, been difficult to achieve. Because early detection of lung cancer can make a difference to the treatment and recovery process, the experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America use the latest in diagnostic technology, such as Fluorescence Bronchoscopy.

Fluorescence Bronchoscopy, also known as blue-light bronchoscopy, is used to diagnose tiny, in-sutu cancers. Physicians are able to identify areas of abnormality in the bronchial tubes that may not be visible under white light examination. Under fluorescence, abnormal tissue appears reddish brown, healthy tissue appears green. When the tumor is identified early, while it is confined to the lung, curative procedures are possible.

The procedures include surgery, radiation, laser ablation, photodynamic therapy and brachytherapy.

GammaPET Imaging

Our radiologists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America are using simple sugar to administer diagnostic radiation, which reveals cancer at the metabolic level. While all human cells use sugar, or glucose, to function, cancer cells uptake the substance at a much faster rate than normal cells do.

GammaPET is a cancer staging and diagnostic imaging tool at CTCA. It uses an advanced gamma camera, specially equipped with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, which allows our experts to examine tissue function at the metabolic level within your body. This ultimately offers you more accurate detection and management of early stage cancer.

CTCA is using GammaPET to reveal these powerful images of your body’s biological functions, illuminating cancer from metastatic disease that other imaging techniques simply can’t detect. Until recently, this technology was available at only a few U.S. academic medical centers with dedicated PET systems in place, so that most people didn’t have PET imaging available to them.

CTCA’s GammaPET system offers similar levels of detection accuracy compared to the dedicated PET systems found at university centers, while making the test more affordable and accessible to you.

We use the comprehensive information gathered via GammaPET to better predict the development of your disease and treat it in its early stages. GammaPET also provides accurate assessments of tumor response to chemotherapy, regardless of the type of cancer you have.

This technology also affords outstanding accuracy to determine whether you should have surgery, particularly when there is no physical evidence that the cancer has spread to other parts of your body, such as your liver, lung, or lymph nodes, which are frequent sites of difficult-to-detect metastasis.

GammaPET imaging offers many advantages to CTCA’s leading oncology team. By visualizing metastatic spread of recurrent cancers, GammaPET helps your care team make treatment decisions with you. If you have widespread disease, PET provides highly accurate targeting of radiation to tumor sites for therapy or pain relief. If you are undergoing gene therapy, PET can help your physicians determine if altered genes are being expressed in the cancer cells.

Here’s an overview of benefits of GammaPET Imaging at CTCA:

  • GammaPET is FDA approved, scientifically proven and safe
  • It offers unmatched procedure accuracy
  • GammaPET complements CT and MRI by clarifying suspicious results, and in some cases, may replace multiple medical testing procedures with a single exam
  • Uses triple-head detection system to show all the organ systems of your body within one image setting
  • Diagnoses disease, often before it shows up on anatomical tests
  • Shows the progress of disease and how your body responds to treatment
  • Reduces procedure time, with an average scan taking approximately one hour (up to 50 percent reductions have been documented)
  • Reduces or eliminates ineffective or unnecessary surgical or medical treatments and hospitalizations, including some biopsies
  • Significantly reduces multiple medical costs and avoids needless pain.

Miraluma Breast Imaging

Expert radiologists at Cancer Treatment Centers of America use Miraluma, the first-ever nuclear medicine test approved for breast imaging. Also known as sestamibi breast imaging, this innovative test is used by radiologists as an adjunct to mammography when identifying and locating cancer within your breasts, and produces striking pictures of lesions even in the midst of dense breast tissue.

Using Miraluma, we are better able to correctly identify some malignant lesions and can reduce the number of breast biopsies being performed. It is a non-invasive option that helps us overcome the obstacle of dense and fibrous breast tissue, to see some malignancies that other tests may have missed.

Today, the overall five-year survival rate for breast cancer is approximately eighty-three percent, but the rate can be as high as ninety-six percent if cancer is detected early, before it has spread to other parts of the body.

Mammography, however, is limited in its sensitivity and correctly identifies malignancies in only twenty to thirty percent of suspicious lesions. Dense, fibrous breast tissue makes accurate identification of tumors and abnormal structures even more difficult, and it usually is impossible for mammography to image areas surrounding your breasts, to look for tumors that may have migrated from the breast tissue to these adjacent areas.

The Miraluma test uses a radiopharmaceutical, (radioactive drugs that, when used for the purpose of diagnosis or therapy, typically elicit no physiological response from your body), which is thought to accumulate in areas of increased metabolic activity in malignant cells. In vitro studies show the concentration of the drug is up to nine times higher in malignant cells than in normal cells.

During the Miraluma test, you will receive a small amount of the radiopharmaceutical by injection, after which your breasts will be imaged with a Gamma camera. The test does not involve compressing your breasts as in a mammogram; however, you may experience a slight metallic taste after injection of the radiopharmaceutical.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a cutting-edge diagnostic technology utilized by Cancer Treatment Centers of America in order to accurately locate cancer cells within the body. By utilizing magnetic energy and radio waves, MRI is able to generate detailed images or “slices” of the human body. Most MRI systems consist of a large tube-shaped magnet that serves as the primary component. Clinical studies have demonstrated the exceptional sensitivity of MRI in detecting certain types of breast cancers that may go unnoticed by mammography. While mammography is primarily used for early detection of breast cancer, it may not identify all cases.

This is where MRI proves to be invaluable in uncovering hidden cancers. Specifically, MRI is particularly beneficial in diagnosing and staging breast cancer for individuals with dense breast tissue or implants. Although traditionally used as a diagnostic test, MRI can also serve as a screening tool for those at a high risk of breast cancer due to genetic predisposition or a previous history of the disease.

Furthermore, MRI aids CTCA radiologists and other specialists in determining the most effective treatment plan by accurately identifying the stage of the disease. Once the stage of cancer is established, our experts are able to select a treatment plan that is likely to yield the best results.

Natural killer cells

Natural Killer (NK) cells are a type of lymphocyte (white blood cell) responsible for destroying viruses and tumor cells. The level of activity is genetically controlled. NK activity is known to decrease with advancing stages of cancer, and increase with your clinical response to treatment. This assay, then, may give the Cancer Treatment Centers of America experts an index of tumor progression/regression.

Spiral computed tomography

As one of the premier cancer treatment institutions in the world, Cancer Treatment Centers of America includes Helical computed tomography (spiral CT) as one of the newest weapons in its arsenal for screening and detection of your cancer, particularly in the case of lung cancer and metastases in the lung.

Spiral CT uses continuous scanning to generate cross-sectional slices, and then make a set of 3-dimensional images. This innovative technology has decreased the time it takes to produce tomographic pictures, and has been shown to identify early lung lesions and may ultimately prove to be a more effective screening modality than chest x-ray.

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