New MRI scan helps treatment of blood cancer

A new kind of whole-body diffusion-weighted MRI scan can help doctors better treat myeloma--one of the more common forms of blood cancer--according to a study in Radiology.

According to the researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton, Surrey, England, the new scan also will help reduce the reliance on bone marrow biopsies, which can be painful and often don't show how far the disease has spread.

For the study, the researcher scanned 26 patients before and after their cancer treatments. In 86 percent of cases, physicians could identify those patients who responded to treatment. Additionally, they could identify those patients who weren't responding to treatment 80 percent of the time.

The new scan was able to identify cancer in almost all bones in the body, with the exception of incidents in which dental implants and filling made MRI imaging more difficult.

"This is the first time we've been able to obtain information from all the bones in the entire body for myeloma in one scan without having to rely on individual bone X-rays," study co-author Nandita deSouza, M.D., a professor of translational imaging at the Institute of Cancer Research, said in an announcement. "It enables us to measure the involvement of individual bones and follow their response to treatment. The results can be visualized immediately; we can look on the screen and see straight away where the cancer is and measure how severe it is.

DeSouza said that the scan is better than blood tests and "uncomfortable biopsies," which don't reveal the extent or severity of the disease.

Study co-author, Faith Davies, M.D., added that the next step will be to refine the technology through increased testing. 

"This is a small study," she said. "In the future we hope this new tool will help doctors extend the life of more myeloma patients."

To learn more:
- read the study in Radiology
- see the announcement from the Institute of Cancer Research

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