New MRI screening technique differentiates malignant breast tumors

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Researchers are working on new way to determine whether breast tumors are malignant or benign. Image Source:  

Latest results from researchers at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland demonstrate that “shutter-speed” computer analysis can distinguish malignant from benign tumors 100 percent of the time in breast cancer screening, a method likely to reduce or eliminate unnecessary biopsies. Their findings are published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The research effort, led by Charles Springer, uses a MRI technique and the researchers’ newly developed software—called the shutter-speed model—to analyze image data of breast cancer patients. Springer and colleagues said they aim to develop a new, minimally invasive, yet accurate approach to determining whether tumors located in the breast are malignant or benign.

While standard mammography is effective, it also results in a very significant number of false-positive results, Springer noted. He believes that an MRI exam aided by the shutter-speed model analysis will provide a much clearer diagnosis and will become the intermediate step between a mammographic scan and a biopsy intervention if breast cancer is suspected from both the mammogram and the MRI results. Adding this intermediate diagnostic step would greatly reduce the number of biopsy surgeries and also reduce the pain, stress and expense for most patients.

Currently, a different form of MRI data analysis is used by the OHSU researchers for characterizing lesions in the breast. However, this older system offers little improvement over mammography when attempting to distinguish between malignant and benign tumors. Typically, 75 percent of mammographically-indicated biopsies yield negative pathology results, meaning that an intermediate step such as an MRI determination could greatly reduce the number of unnecessary biopsy surgeries.