MRI use for breast cancer prognosis promising, currently insufficient

Researchers in search of noninvasive methods to diagnose breast cancer say magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has potential, but is not a likely solution in the clinical setting just yet.

A study presented at last week's CTRC-AARC San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium last week found that quantitative MRI measures, such as diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI) and dynamic contrast-enhanced MRI (DCE), provided tumor measurement data similar to that obtained from a biopsy. For instance, DCE test results were able to differentiate between various grades of tumors and basal-like intrinsic subtypes.

"When we looked at these measures, we realized there was a correlation with biomarkers," lead researcher Dr. Sana Parsian, of the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement. "It would be great if we could improve our understanding of breast cancer biology and predict response to different therapies with imaging."

Despite MRI's promise, such measures aren't yet sufficient for detecting cancer in the lymph nodes of new breast cancer patients, according to a study published in the Radiological Society of North America's (RSNA) journal Radiology last week. While researchers were able to detect cancer with 80 percent accuracy using DWI and 85 percent using axial T1-weighted MRI, those numbers simply weren't high enough to  forgo a lymph node dissection.

"Results indicate reliable and reproducible assessment with DW imaging," researchers wrote, "but it is unlikely to be useful in clinical practice."

To learn more:
- read this announcement
- here's the Radiology abstract

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