A UNSW researcher has developed a world-first test which will radically improve cancer management.

Professor Philip Hogg, the co-director of UNSW's Lowy Cancer Research Centre, has developed the technology which will determine whether cancer cells are dying within a day or so of a patient's treatment with radiation or chemotherapy.

The test uses an imaging agent that detects dying cancer cells. If the cancer cells are dying, doctors will know the treatment is working. If not, they will be able to change treatment quickly, allowing for a more effective response.

This will improve patients' chances of survival and would allow them to bypass long, traumatic bouts of chemotherapy which would later have proved futile.

"It's very exciting. There's no way to do this now. It's a real unmet need in cancer treatment," said Professor Hogg. "It will be a way of optimizing the therapy that's used."

The test would be suitable for all solid tumours, but would not be applicable for leukaemia.

The US pharmaceutical company Covidien has bought the rights to develop the technology, which it also believes will have applications for those suffering strokes and heart attacks.

Professor Hogg hopes the test for cancer will be used in hospitals within five to seven years.

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