New MRI-based method improves liver cancer care

A new MRI technique developed by German researchers can better analyze a patient’s liver consistency and improve liver cancer care.

The method—called "tomoelastography"—combines tomography and elasticity, allowing researchers to diagram the spread of mechanical waves within the liver. This, the team from Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin said, can improve visualization of liver tumors.

"Our findings may help researchers to develop entirely non-invasive means of distinguishing between benign and malignant lesions,” study author Mehrgan Shahryari, with the hospital’s department of radiology, said in a statement. “Before we get to that stage, however, we will need further, comprehensive studies to evaluate the performance and accuracy of tomoelastography in cancer diagnosis.”

Liver cancer sits as the fifth most common type of cancer worldwide. Those with firmer liver consistencies are at a higher risk of developing liver lesions, but there’s been little insight into how different tissues—both solid and fluid—interact within the organ, and if that contributes to the development of liver cancer.

The team from Berlin is the first to report this connection, finding hepatic malignancies contain both stiff and fluid tissue, while the surrounding tissue is primarily solid. Shahryari et al. tested their method in 77 patients with a total of 141 liver lesions. Up until now, experts had believed all tumors were solid.

"Our findings regarding these unusual mechanical properties may be indicative of a general pattern for cancer growth," the researchers concluded.

The full study was published in Cancer Research.