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Sodium MRI Could Cut Breast False Positives

September 27, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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A new type of MRI that detects sodium levels could, according to its developers, improve breast cancer screening by reducing false positives and reducing the need for invasive biopsies.

Don’t look for it in clinics anytime soon. A team from Brigham Young University and the University of Utah is still tinkering with the technology. Its latest research article, published online September 16 in Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, details successful experiments in making the sodium array work on a 3-tesla scanner without interfering with conventional proton scanning on the same device.

Electrical engineer Neal Bangerter, PhD, senior author of the article and co-leader of the project, is encouraged:

The images we’re obtaining show a substantial improvement over anything that we’ve seen using this particular MRI technique for breast cancer imaging.

Dr. Bangerter is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at BYU and holds an adjunct appointment in the radiology department at Utah. He was quoted in a BYU news release.

Why sodium? Because research has indicated that malignant tumors have higher sodium concentrations than healthy tissue. So far, the BYU-Utah team envisions a sodium MRI scan as a supplement to conventional mammography. Scans take 20 minutes to generate high-quality images, so there’s still a way to go before the acquisition time will be acceptable to patients.

However, Dr. Bangerter said:

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.

Bruce Daniel, MD, a professor of radiology at Stanford who is not involved in this research, said, “This development by Dr. Bangerter and his group represents a major advance in the field of multinuclear MRI of the breast. … This should open the door to new avenues of research into breast cancer.”

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