A group of researchers in Trondheim, Norway, are the first in the world to use in vivo magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to separate benign tumors from cancer. Ingrid Susann Gribbestad shows, in her recently published thesis, how one can discover breast cancer and monitor the treatment by using this new technology. The work is financed by the Norwegian Cancer Society and the Research Council of Norway.
The research behind this thesis was done at the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research at the Norwegian Institute of Technology. The results also showed how MRS can be used to map metabolism connections in the breast.
"We are the first research group in the world who has used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to map which chemical substances exist in the cancerous tumor compared to the surrounding healthy tissue. The finds in 30 patients show several differences, especially regarding sugar content, some amino acids, and choline, Gribbestad says.
Follows the contrast substance through the breast MR imaging, is today one of the most important methods used within cancer diagnosis. Gribbestad has also implemented the new method "Dynamic contrast enhanced MR" that involves following the contrast substance through the breast by seeing how the MR images change over time.
"As an example, we can see by using these images, how the blood vessel network appears within the cancer tumor and how much of the contrast substance leaks from the blood vessels as it advances in the circulatory system. Thereby, we can also determine quite accurately if the tumor is cancerous or not. The blood vessel network is as a rule greater in the cancer tumor than in a benign one. The blood vessels in a cancer tumor also leak more than in a benign tumor," says Gribbestad
MR may be best for young women
Gribbestad has shown in her thesis that these methods function well in the examination of patients. She believes that this method can play an important role in the diagnosis and evaluation of the treatment results in breast cancer patients.
"It would be favorable to use MR images in the diagnosis of certain breast cancer patients, for example women who have an inherited risk of breast cancer in their families. These young women are followed closely today, but when it concerns examining the breast tissue in younger women, MR images may be superior in giving a more precise diagnosis than ordinary mammography. It can also be of benefit in cases where mammography is not accurate enough.
The MRS method monitors treatment
"MR spectroscopy, which shows the biochemical compositions in the tumor, also can be an important aid in surveying the treatment of breast cancer patients. The method is also applicable in seeing which effect the treatment has at a biochemical level. We hope that this means that the effect of the treatment can be measured before one can see the effect on the tumor itself," Gribbestad says.
Widens the possibilities
The thesis shows how MRS can be used to study tissue samples and thereby supplement the microscope which studies cells, and the microarrays that study genetics.
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