Prototype breast cancer imaging system may improve patient care

TORONTO — A prototype breast imaging system combining positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies could greatly improve breast cancer imaging capabilities, according to researchers at SNM’s 56th Annual Meeting. Although the system has not yet been tested on humans, initial results from the prototype indicate the system produces a fusion of detailed PET and MRI images that should allow a more accurate classification of lesions in the breast.

“PET and MRI systems are both powerful, noninvasive tools for detecting breast cancer and evaluating treatment, but each of them also has weaknesses,” said Bosky Ravindranath, research assistant working with Dr. David Schlyer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y., and lead author of a study on preliminary testing of the prototype. “We believe that combining PET and MRI in a single system will eventually yield highly sensitive and specific breast cancer examinations while at the same time compensating for the shortcomings that exist when using only PET or only MRI.”

Every year, approximately 180,000 women are newly diagnosed with breast cancer. While the disease is still a leading cause of death among women, breast cancer mortality is declining. In particular, new developments in molecular imaging technologies are dramatically improving the ways in which breast cancer is diagnosed and treated. However, many challenges remain in breast imaging, such as obtaining accurate images of dense breast tissue.

When completed, the dedicated breast PET-MRI system will consist of a modular 3D tomographic PET scanner that is inserted inside a dedicated breast MRI coil produced by Aurora Technologies, Inc. The modularity of the PET system would allow for the scanner diameter to be adjusted according to patient breast size. Researchers expect the combined modality scanner will provide anatomical information from the MRI to enhance the resolution provided by PET. At the same time, the predictive power of PET in identifying the type of tumor should be able to overcome MRI technology’s traditionally high false-positive rates.

Based on the positive preliminary results, researchers expect to begin testing the system shortly with breast cancer patients.

Scientific Paper 249: B. Ravindranath, S. Junnarker, S.H. Maramraju; S. Southekal, M. Purschke, S. Stoll, D. Tomasi, P. Vaska, C. Woody, D. Schyler, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y.; and Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, N.Y. “Initial results from the BNL dedicated simultaneous PET-MRI breast imaging system prototype,” SNM’s 56th Annual Meeting, June 13-17, 2009.

About SNM — Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy

SNM is an international scientific and medical organization dedicated to raising public awareness about what molecular imaging is and how it can help provide patients with the best health care possible. SNM members specialize in molecular imaging, a vital element of today’s medical practice that adds an additional dimension to diagnosis, changing the way common and devastating diseases are understood and treated.

SNM’s more than 17,000 members set the standard for molecular imaging and nuclear medicine practice by creating guidelines, sharing information through journals and meetings and leading advocacy on key issues that affect molecular imaging and therapy research and practice. For more information, visit www.snm.org.

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