MRI helps detect early signs of cancer in children

cancer

An MRI scan in people with heart disease is now said to help with assessing cancers in children. A new study has revealed that the MRI scan can assess early signs and also show if they are aggressive.

The Institute of Cancer Research that held the study said that the MRI imaging technique known as T1-mapping will give crucial insights into the biology of childhood cancers. They could give early warning of how effective targeted treatments were likely to be.

In T1 mapping scans, it measure how water molecules interact at a microscopic level inside cells. This will help in understanding the cellular make-up of tissue. This is mainly used in to assess damage to heart muscle tissue.

The researchers said that this particular mapping could help in the improvement of precision medicine in children with neuroblastoma. They studied the mapping in mice with an aggressive form of neuroblastoma to get a clear picture of the microscopic and physical characteristics of the tumour.

The researchers used artificial intelligence for mapping the different cell populations in the cancer cells. Then they compared it with those created using non-invasive T1 mapping MRI scans. It was found that cancer cells grew more aggressively and faster in regions with high T1 values (water molecules can behave ‘more freely’). On the other hand, areas with low T1 values had more dead tissue.

They also looked at how neuroblastoma would respond to two targeted drugs —  alisertib and vistusertib. They noticed that alisertib and vistusertib stopped the growth of tumours in mice and there was a decrease in T1 measures. This showed that aggressive cancer cells were dead.  This showed that T1 measures could be used as a biomarker.

The study is the first one to assess the benefit of MRI technique for early study of cancer in children.

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