New zinc-focused MRI technique can ID cancerous prostate tissue

Distinguishing between healthy and cancerous cells is the basic challenge for those looking to detect cancer. A new MRI technique developed by radiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center may improve detection of malignant prostate cancer cells by monitoring low levels of zinc ions.

Contemporary MRI continues to have trouble distinguishing between the zinc levels in healthy tissues of the prostate and those that are malignant. This new technique may provide further insight into using biomarkers to track the progress of prostate cancer.

"This research provides the basis for differentiating healthy prostate from prostate cancer by use of a novel Zn(II) ion sensing molecule and MRI," said senior author A. Dean Sherry, MD, Director of the Advanced Imaging Research Center and Professor of Radiology at UT Southwestern.

Researcher’s noticed that when the levels of zinc were low, the ability to distinguish between malignant and healthy tissue improved. In a study on mice, the researchers were able to identify the cancerous tissues as early as 11 weeks. This method of early detection makes this technique capable of both detecting the cancer as well as being able to observe its progression.

"Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms, so identifying potential new diagnostic methods that might catch the cancer at an earlier stage or allow us to track how it is progressing is an important opportunity," said Neil Rofsky, MD, the radiology chair at UT Southwestern Medical Center.