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Breast cancer: every second biopsy could be avoided

(Vienna, 25th June 2014) Following a diagnosis of breast cancer, one of the hardest tasks is to distinguish the benign nodes in the breast from the malignant tumours, and this usually requires a tissue sample (biopsy) to be taken. Using the combined approach of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the key processes in the development of breast cancer can be visualised, allowing every second unnecessary breast biopsy to be avoided. This is the most significant finding of a study at the University Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine carried out in cooperation with other departments and centres at the MedUni Vienna.

Katja Pinker from the MedUni Vienna’s University Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine was able to demonstrate in this clinical study, which is the first of its kind worldwide, that multi-parametric Positron Emission Tomography (PET) / Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), i.e. the combination of the latest imaging procedures, can achieve a diagnostic certainty of 96 per cent. This could avoid half of all breast biopsies of benign nodes.

“Successful hunt” in radiology
In the study, which has now been published in the highly respected journal "Clinical Cancer Research", the diagnosis of breast cancer was made for the first time using a combination of 3-Tesla MRI and fluordeoxyglucose (FDG) PET. Until now, MRI and PET have always been used independently of each other. By combining the two imaging methods, a variety of different information on the key processes involved in the development of breast cancer can be gleaned at the same time. Says Pinker: “It’s like a search for a criminal. The more information you have, the easier it is to track him down.”

The current study demonstrated that this multi-parametric PET/MRI allows a better non-invasive diagnosis of breast tumours: “It means we are able to distinguish more easily between benign and malignant tumours, thereby significantly reducing the number of false positives.”

First PET / MR scanner at the MedUni Vienna / Vienna General Hospital

At the MedUni Vienna’s University Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, led by Christian Herold, further research is currently taking place in order to close in on the missing percentage to bring the diagnostic certainty to almost one hundred per cent when distinguishing between benign and malignant tumours. The PET / MR scanner unveiled on Tuesday (yesterday) at the Vienna General Hospital (AKH) and the MedUni Vienna will also be playing a part in this. It is the first of its kind in Austria and combines the possibilities of both methods, allowing both internal structures and metabolic processes to be visualised at the same time.

5,400 Austrians develop breast cancer each year

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women, and almost one in three women will develop the condition at some point in their lives. Across Austria, around 5,400 women developed breast cancer in 2011 according to Statistik Austria, and around 1,500 women died of the disease in that same year.

Service: Clinical Cancer Research
“Improved Differentiation of Benign and Malignant Breast Tumors with Multiparametric18Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography Magnetic Resonance imaging: A Feasibility Study.” Pinker K, Bogner W, Baltzer P, Karanikas G, Magometschnigg H, Brader P, Gruber S, Bickel H, Dubsky P, Bago-Horvath Z, Bartsch R, Weber M, Trattnig S, Helbich TH.

Five research clusters at the MedUni Vienna
A total of five research clusters have been set up at the MedUni Vienna in which the MedUni Vienna is increasing its focus in the fields of fundamental and clinical research. The research clusters include cancer research / oncology, cardiovascular medicine, medical neurosciences, immunology and medical imaging. This study falls within the remit of the oncology and imaging clusters. It was set up within the Division of Molecular and Gender Imaging at the University Department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine in cooperation with the High Field MR Centre of Excellence, the University Department of Surgery, Pathology, Internal Medicine I (Clinical Oncology) and the Comprehensive Cancer Centre (CCC).