A new imaging system currently entering clinical testing could allow doctors to track the process of cancer growth in real-time, scientists have said.
The system, based on a technique called positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, allows doctors to visualise the formation of new blood vessels in the body - a process called angiogenesis.
This occurs naturally during wound healing, when blood vessels have been damaged, but is also a crucial for cancers as they attempt to take in more nutrients and oxygen in order to grow.
Researchers said they would be able to track tumour growth by using a chemical that has been designed to bind to and highlight the process of angiogenesis.
This would be particularly useful in allowing doctors to monitor the effectiveness of treatment.
"Data from this program could establish a new measurement used to assess the effectiveness of treatment approaches in cancer," said lead researcher Dr David Brooks.
"Angiogenesis is a characteristic process of many cancers, and we're excited to participate in this clinical trial, which may provide additional validation for the use of this novel molecular imaging agent in oncology applications."
Cancer Research UK welcomed the study, said cancer information officer at the charity Josephine Querido.
"Being able to visualise this in real time in patients would be an important step forward and could have important implications for how the success of cancer treatment is monitored in future. We look forward to the results of this clinical trial," she said.
The research is being conducted by the Hammersmith Hospital in London in association with GE Healthcare.