New MRI lights up cancerous tissue for improved detection

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Doctors could detect and track the progression of cancer more accurately with a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that makes cancerous tissue glow in medical images. 

cancerous tisue
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The innovation, developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada, creates images in which cancerous tissue appears to light up compared to healthy tissue.

"Our studies show this new technology has promising potential to improve cancer screening, prognosis and treatment planning," Alexander Wong, Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Medical Imaging and a professor of systems design engineering at Waterloo, said in a statement.

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According to the University, irregular packing of cells leads to differences in the way water molecules move in cancerous tissue compared to healthy tissue. The new technology - synthetic correlated diffusion imaging - highlights these differences by capturing, synthesising and mixing MRI signals at different gradient pulse strengths and timings.

In what is said to be the largest study of its kind, the researchers collaborated with medical experts at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, several Toronto hospitals and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to apply the technology to a cohort of 200 patients with prostate cancer.

Compared to standard MRI techniques, synthetic correlated diffusion imaging was better at delineating significant cancerous tissue, making it a potential tool for doctors and radiologists.

"Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in more developed countries," said Wong, also a director of the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) Lab at Waterloo. "That's why we targeted it first in our research.

"We also have very promising results for breast cancer screening, detection, and treatment planning. This could be a game-changer for many kinds of cancer imaging and clinical decision support."

The research team included Hayden Gunraj and Vignesh Sivan, engineering graduate students at Waterloo, and Dr Masoom Haider of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.

Their paper, Synthetic correlated diffusion imaging hyperintensity delineates clinically significant prostate cancer, has been published in Scientific Reports.