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New scanning technique

A chemical marker detected by proton MRSI successfully diagnose the breast cancer, says a research.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 03, 2004 17:06 IST

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have used a chemical marker detected by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) to successfully diagnose breast cancer.

The study comprising researchers from the Russell H. Morgan Department of Radiology and Radiological Science at Hopkins observed that diagnostic technique produces pictures of choline within breast tumors.

The findings published in the December-January issue of the Journal of 'Magnetic Resonance Imaging' note that scientists have long known that cancers contain elevated levels of choline, a product of membrane synthesis.

MRSI of the breast does not appear likely to be cost-effective as a routine screening tool for breast cancer, but may prove to be a viable, noninvasive alternative to biopsy in cases with positive mammography or clinical breast exam results.

"What MRSI does provide is information about the molecular environment of breast tumors, which also may be useful in designing therapeutic interventions for patients," Michael A. Jacobs, lead researcher for the Hopkins study, said.

Proton magnetic resonance imaging uses the water content in tissue to produce images by measuring signals emitted after subjecting the tissue to high magnetic fields, but provides no information on the chemical or molecular aspects of the tissue being imaged.

Combining proton MRI with spectroscopy allows the scientists to differentiate intracellular components of the cell and signals emitted by certain biochemicals, such as choline.

In the study, 15 patients who had been referred for MRI evaluation after previous examination had revealed breast tumors underwent regular breast MRI to identify the lesion. These studies were followed by MRSI scanning to determine if choline signals in the tumors could be adequately imaged using spectroscopy.

Biopsies performed after the imaging revealed that eight of the tumors were malignant carcinomas and seven were benign. MRSI showed elevated choline levels in all eight of the malignant tumors.

"These data are proof of principle, and strongly suggest that MRSI can serve as an important adjunct to the routine MRI scan that may aid physicians in making a diagnosis of breast cancer," Jacobs said.

First Published: Mar 03, 2004 17:06 IST