A new type of scan that involves magnetising molecules allows doctors to see in real-time which regions of a breast tumour are active, according to research at the University of Cambridge.
Magnetised molecules used to monitor breast cancer
The research has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This is the first time researchers have demonstrated that this scanning technique, called carbon-13 hyperpolarised imaging, can be used to monitor breast cancer.
The team based at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute and the Department of Radiology, University of Cambridge, tested the technique in seven patients with various types and grades of breast cancer before they had received any treatment.
They used the scan to measure how fast the patients’ tumours were metabolising a naturally occurring molecule called pyruvate, and were able to detect differences in the size, type and grade of tumours – a measure of how fast growing, or aggressive the cancer is.
The scan also revealed in more detail the ‘topography’ of the tumour, detecting variations in metabolism between different regions of the same tumour.
Professor Kevin Brindle, lead researcher from the institute, said: “This is one of the most detailed pictures of the metabolism of a patient’s breast cancer that we’ve ever been able to achieve. It’s like we can see the tumour ‘breathing’.
“Combining this with advances in genetic testing, this scan could in the future allow doctors to better tailor treatments to each individual, and detect whether patients are responding to treatments, like chemotherapy, earlier than is currently possible”.
Image: Left: Anatomic MR image of breast tumour; Right: Overlays of hyperpolarised 13C-MRI on anatomic images showing pyruvate and lactate in breast cancer
Credit: Kevin Brindle
Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge
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