As a way to avoid heavy radiation exposure during cancer detection, scientists from Stanford University’s School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital have demonstrated that MRI-based imaging techniques are just as effective as conventional scanning methods, but bring none of the risks.
The research team, led by Dr Heike Daldrup-Link, say that the standard computed tomography (CT) and 18F-fludeoxyglucose (18F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET)/CT scans are the main techniques used to determine what stage cancers are at and to choose the best treatment method.
However, Dr Daldrup-Link notes that previous research has demonstrated the secondary cancer risks associated with being exposed to the radiation, and adds that children are much more sensitive to radiation compared to adults, and they are more likely to suffer from secondary cancers because they will live for a longer period after exposure.
In their new study the researchers present a new whole-body imaging method which uses an iron supplement called ferumoxytol, to improve the visibility of tumours.
During the study, the investigators scanned 22 children and young adults aged between 0 and 33 years who had malignant lymphomas and sarcomas.
The whole-body MRI technique showed zero average radiation exposure, while the 18F-FDG PET/CT method exposed patients to 12.5 millisieverts (mSv).
The diagnostic accuracy of the whole-body MRI technique was 97.2 per cent, compared to 98.3 per cent in the 18F-FDG PET/CT method. Similar sensitivities and specificities were found in the whole-body MRI as compared to the 18F-FDG PET/CT.
Dr Daldrup-Link also said the team has already tied up with six centres in the US to test the new MRI imaging method against radiotracer-based staging examinations.