3T sodium MRI technique could minimize false positives in breast cancer

A research team from Brigham Young University in the U.S. is developing a new breast cancer screening technique that has the potential to reduce false positives and possibly, to minimize the need for invasive biopsies (Kaggie JF et al. 3 T sodium and proton composite array breast coil.Magn Reson Med. 2013 doi: 10.1002/)

Currently proton MRI scans of the breast are generally used to examine in more detail any suspicious areas found on mammograms. However, they can produce false positives leading to unnecessary interventions. However sodium MRI has the potential to improve assessment of breast lesions because it is thought that sodium concentrations are increased in malignant tumors. The BYU Utah team believe that the addition of sodium MRI to a breast cancer screening exam could provide important additional diagnostic information that will cut down on false positives. The objective of the group’s study was to determine whether a sodium phased array would improve sodium breast MRI at 3 T. To do this, the group created an MRI device that could improve both the process and accuracy of breast cancer screening by scanning for sodium levels in the breast. Specifically, the device produces images as much as five times more accurate than with previous systems “The images we’re obtaining show a substantial improvement over anything that we’ve seen using this particular MRI technique for breast cancer imaging,” said Dr NK Bangerter, senior author of the study.

“This development by Bangerter and his group represents a major advance in the field of multinuclear MRI of the breast,” said Stanford Professor of Radiology Bruce Daniel. “He and his group have invented a way to dramatically boost the sodium signal from the breast, enabling much better sodium MR images of  higher resolutionto be obtained. This should open the door to new avenues of research into breast cancer.”

So far, the novel technique returns high-quality images in only 20 minutes, improving the odds that sodium MRI breast scans could be implemented in clinical routine. The MRI team’s goal is to produce a device capable of obtaining both excellent sodium and good proton images without requiring the patient being screened to be repositioned for multiple scans.