A new MRI technique that requires no contrast agent and is combined with sophisticated data analysis can differentiate between benign breast lesions and malignancies, thus reducing unnecessary breast biopsies.
Currently, breast MRI is used in combination with traditional mammography to screen women at high risk of breast cancer. The method uses gadolinium-based contrast agents that have to be injected intravenously.
Now German researchers have found an alternative method that uses diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) measurements derived from MRI. The technique, known as diffusion kurtosis imaging, provides a picture of breast tissue on a microstructural level.
“Diffusion kurtosis imaging has been introduced in DWI to provide important information on tissue structures at a microscopic level,” said study lead author Sebastian Bickelhaupt, M.D., from the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany.
“Since malignant lesions disrupt the tissue structures at this level, diffusion kurtosis might serve as a relevant marker of changes,” he continued.
Bickelhaupt and colleagues analyzed the results of two studies. The women had suspicious findings on mammography that were classified under the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System (BI-RADS) as BI-RADS 4 and 5 breast lesions. A BI-RADS 4 lesion is considered a suspicious abnormality, while a 5 is considered highly suspicious of malignancy. The women underwent DWI followed by biopsy.
Using the new technique, which included new software to characterize lesions, researchers reduced false-positive findings by 70 percent while detecting 98 percent of malignant lesions.
The study was published in the journal Radiology.
A recent study at Case Western Reserve University found that using a new contrast agent in combination with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) allowed breast cancers to be detected at early stages, and even differentiated between aggressive and slow-growing types.
The new contrast agent is based on gadolinium, a form of rare-earth mineral that requires a dose 20 times smaller than traditional iodinated agents and is easily flushed from the body, leaving no residue to accumulate in tissues.
Using a low dosage, the agent lights up cancer biomarkers during scans much better than traditional MRI contrasting agents, overcoming the difficulty of MRIs in spotting cancers.
The research was published in Nature Communications.
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