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3D magnetic resonance technology now also used in the diagnosis of breast cancer

(Vienna, 18th October 2011) Magnetic resonance technology involves no ionising radiation and delivers a high degree of soft tissue contrast. This non-toxic method has so far not been used in the diagnosis of breast cancer, however. This situation may be about to change: in a study being led by Stephan Gruber at the University Department of Radiodiagnostics at the MedUni Vienna, part of the Vienna General Hospital, three-dimensional magnetic resonance spectroscopy has been used for the first time ever - and the results are extremely promising.

In Europe and North America, one in eight to ten women will develop breast cancer at some point in their life. Depending on how advanced the disease is, complete cure is not always possible, despite new treatment methods and a lot of money being spent on the condition. Consequently, early detection remains the key: namely the recognition of changes and the differentiation of changes, for example to determine if the lesion is a benign fibroadenoma or a malignant tumour.

In most European countries, X-ray based screening programmes (mammography) are offered as a preventative approach. Mammography is an excellent method for spotting possible tissue changes quickly and early on. X-ray based methods target calcifications that can occur as a concomitant finding in pathological changes. Further exploration following a positive mammogram can be carried out using surgery (biopsies) or with other mammography-based investigations a few months later. Says Gruber: “This approach, however, means agonising uncertainty for the patient."

“Reduce the number of biopsies and increase the number of early diagnoses”
At the centre of excellence for high-field magnetic resonance, Stephan Gruber and his team have now succeeded in using three-dimensional magnetic resonance spectroscopy for the diagnosis of breast cancer. Fifty patients that had been found to have suspicious lesions on mammography or ultrasound were investigated while lying on their stomach in a magnetic resonance scanner. From a total of 43 patients, 32 malignant and 12 benign tumours were found. The scan took around twelve minutes.

“Metabolic changes make it easy to distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue. The initial results are extremely promising, since it has been possible to achieve a high level of diagnostic safety", explains Gruber. “Our aim is to save as many patients as possible from the need for a biopsy, and most importantly increase the number of early diagnoses, thereby improving the success of treatment. Our credo is: the first step for successful treatment is prompt and precise diagnosis."

The study has now appeared in the highly-respected American journal “Radiology”. The North American Society of Radiology also chose this study by the MedUni Vienna “due to its considerable importance for society” to present to a wider audience in the USA. This also highlights the international standing held by the centre of excellence for high-field magnetic resonance in the development and application of multi-parameter MR-based imaging.

Service: Radiology
Three-dimensional Proton MR Spectroscopic Imaging at 3 T for the Differentiation of Benign and Malignant Breast Lesions”, Stephan Gruber, Bogumil-Krystian Debski, Katja Pinker, Marek Chmelik, Guenther Grabner, Thomas Helbich, Siegfried Trattnig and Wolfgang Bogner. October 13, 2011, doi: 10.1148/radiol.11102096.