New Tool for Tracking Brain Tumors
Medical College of Wisconsin Physicians are Leaders in Developing MRI Technique
Physicians use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect changes in brain tumors. A weakness of MRI, however, is that it does not always show whether a change is good or bad.
“Standard MRI is very sensitive to certain tumor changes, but it is not specific,” said Jennifer Connelly, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neuro-oncologist. “It does not tell you whether a change is a recurrent tumor or just an effect of treatment.” That problem is being overcome thanks to a new MRI technique called functional diffusion mapping (fDM).
The fDM technique detects subtle movements of water within the brain to distinguish cancer cells from other tissue. According to Mark Malkin, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neurooncologist, sensitive fDM imaging supports treatment in several ways.
“Sometimes the tumor looks stable on the MRI, but the fDM suggests it is progressing,” Dr. Malkin said. This allows physicians to change treatment tactics weeks earlier than if they were just using MRI. “In other cases, we can see improvements in a tumor before the MRI shows any change.”
Physicians at Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin are national leaders in fDM research. In fact, an fDM technique developed by Kathleen Schmainda, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin physicist, is being hailed as a breakthrough for patients being treated with the latest biological drugs (those derived from living organisms).
Dr. Connelly noted that fDM is performed under clinical research protocols. “We are really excited about this research, because it also helps us make treatment decisions,” she said. “Patients benefit from this research up front.”
Source: Froedtert Today
Date: May 2010
Online Editor(s): Robin Schultz