MR spectroscopy improves management of high-risk patients with breast cancer gene

A MR spectroscopy technique has been shown capable of detecting preinvasive biochemical changes in women genetically predisposed to breast cancer, which could improve clinical monitoring and management of high-risk patients, according to a study published online March 3 in the Radiology.

Women found to have either BRAC 1 or BRAC 2 gene mutations are 50 percent more likely to develop breast cancer before the age of 50, and can develop the condition within months of a routine negative mammography screening.  For this reason, many patients with the gene mutation make the difficult decision to opt for preventive mastectomies rather than risk developing invasive breast cancer in the future.

Women and their doctors faced with this decision may now have a better tool for monitoring if and when those cancers are developing, thanks to a study conducted by researchers using 2D localized correlated spectroscopy (L-COSY) to image breast tissue. Researchers performed the procedure on nine women with the BRAC 1 mutation and 14 women with the BRAC 2 mutation, as well as a control group of 10 healthy women unaffected by the genetic condition.

The technique proved effective in detecting biochemical changes related to preinvasive cancer development in women with BRAC 1 and BRAC 2 gene mutations, a finding that can help clinicians and patients manage the condition and reduce unnecessary preventative mastectomies, says study co-author David Clark, MBBS, BSc, FRACS, from the Breast and Endocrine Centre in Gateshead, New South Wales, Australia. “We think there are three stages of pre-cancer progression in the breast tissue," he said in a statement. “Women at Stage 1 could monitor their breasts with follow-up spectroscopy every six months.”

Further research utilizing larger populations is still needed to explore the effectiveness of the L-COSY technique, Clark and his fellow researchers believe, as well as continued long-term monitoring of the patients and biochemical changes detected in their study.