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Specialized MRI scans assess value of anti-cancer chemotherapy long before tumors shown to shrink
Date:6/28/2012

Studies on some 55 U.S. men and women with potentially deadly liver or pancreatic cancers show that specialized MRI scans can tell within a month whether highly toxic chemotherapy is working and killing tumor cells long before tumors actually shrink or fail to shrink.

Using special software and MRI scanners, imaging experts at Johns Hopkins developed their new assay, known as a volumetric functional MRI scan, by exploiting the physiological differences in water movement and absorption inside cancer cells that are dying and those that are not.

The studies are believed to be the first to show that the diagnostic imaging procedure buys patients many months to well over a year of life, by figuring out who might benefit from repeat or higher-dose chemotherapy,

The paired scans, which take only minutes to perform, can detect the movement of water molecules inside tumor cells; and software performs the mathematical analysis needed to calculate the imaged tumor cells' so-called apparent diffusion coefficient. Living tumor cells showing a low coefficient, as water absorption in and out of the cells is tightly controlled, and dying cells the goal of chemotherapy have a relatively high coefficient, because the tumor cells' membranes have lost the ability to restrict water movement. The software used in the scans was developed at Johns Hopkins and at Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics, which manufactures the scanners.

"Our latest volumetric functional MRI scans could help people with aggressive cancers, and little time to spare on failed treatments, know as quickly as possible if their treatment is working and when they need to consider other treatment options. And without having to wait for months to actually see tumor shrinkage," says study senior investigator and radiologist Ihab Kamel, M.D., Ph.D.

Results from the first of two studies to be published in the same July 1 issue of the journal Radiology show that the
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Contact: David March
dmarch1@jhmi.edu
410-955-1534
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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