BYU and Utah research teams are working in a joint to develop a new breast cancer screening technique that could lead to a significant reduction in false positives and potentially minimize or completely eliminate the need for invasive biopsies.
Led by BYU electrical engineer Neal Bangerter and University of Utah collaborators Rock Hadley and Joshua Kaggie, the team has produced an MRI device that could improve both the process and accuracy of breast cancer screening by scanning for sodium levels in the breast.
"The images we're obtaining show a substantial improvement over anything that we've seen using this particular MRI technique for breast cancer imaging," said Bangerter, who als serves as senior author on the study detailing the method in academic journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.
In particular, the device is generating as much as five times more precise and accurate images than prior efforts with an up and coming approach called sodium MRI.
As of today, there are two clinical imaging procedures mostly used for screening breast cancer: mammograms and proton MRI scans.
X-ray mammography is the most widespread screening tool, but the procedure involves x-ray exposure and is normally disagreeable. Mammograms are relatively inexpensive, but they still lead to biopsies when a suspicious lump or lesion is detected.
And due to their increased sensitivity, proton MRI scans are normally used to further examine suspicious areas found by mammograms. However, they can produce false positives leading to unnecessary invasive biopsies.
Sodium MRI has the potential to improve evaluation of breast lesions because sodium concentrations are thought to increase in malignant tumors. Bangerter and his collegues believe that the addition of sodium MRI to a breast cancer screening exam could offer vital additional diagnostic information that will significantly reduce any false positives.
The team has developed a new device used for sodium imaging that is acquiring up a level of detail and structure never seen before, or thought possibly to attain.
"This development by Dr. Bangerter and his group represents a major advance in the field of multinuclear MRI of the breast," said Stanford Professor of Radiology Bruce Daniel. "He and his group have invented a way to dramatically boost the sodium signal from the breast, enabling much better, higher resolution sodium MR images to be obtained. This should open the door to new avenues of research into breast cancer."
As of yet, this breakthrough advancement delivers high-quality images in only 20 minutes, greatly improving the odds that sodium MRI breast scans could be incorporated in regular clinical practice.
The MRI’s team objective remains to produce and develop a device that possesses the ability of attaining both exceptional sodium and solid proton images without having to resort to the patient being screened to be repositioned for numerous scans.
"This method is giving us new physiological information we can't see from other types of images. We believe this can aid in early breast cancer detection and characterization while also improving cancer treatment and monitoring,” Bangerter concluded.