Whole-body MRI beats out PET/CT at detecting debilitating bone cancer

Whole-body MRI can detect more cases of debilitating bone cancer than PET/CT and initiate earlier treatment for such patients, according to a new retrospective study.

King’s College London researchers tested both imaging modalities’ ability to detect myeloma in 46 patients. Overall, whole-body MRI proved more sensitive at spotting the disease and altered patient management in 24% of cases, authors explained Tuesday in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.

“What this ultimately means for patients is improved outcomes from earlier treatment,” Vicky Goh, with the London school’s department of cancer imaging, said in a statement.

More than 140,000 new cases of myeloma are diagnosed around the globe each year. Less than half of these individuals survive past five years, yet there is no go-to imaging test to help diagnose them, Goh explained.

Upon analyzing patients with suspected myeloma, 18F-FDG PET/CT achieved a 69.9% sensitivity for detecting bone lesions. Whole-body MRI, meanwhile, hit the 91.3% mark. PET alone reached 54.3% sensitivity, the authors noted.

Additionally, whole-body imaging pushed doctors to treat an additional 7% of patients compared with PET/CT.

Imaging findings analyzed from each of the two modalities only agreed on a positive diagnosis in 59% of people, Goh and colleagues found.

Given these results, Goh said she would support using WBMRI as a first-line imaging test in patients with suspected myeloma.

"Earlier diagnosis and treatment is key to improving patient outcome,” Goh said in a statement. “Forty percent of NHS hospitals still only perform X-rays, an insensitive test, for diagnosing bone disease in suspected myeloma. This clearly needs to change."

Read the entire study here.