Quick-freeze cancer treatment

The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer could be rapidly improved by new magnetic resonance (MR) technology being developed by Specialty Magnetics.


The diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer could be rapidly improved by new magnetic resonance (MR) technology being developed by Specialty Magnetics, a subsidiary of Specialty Scanners.

Working in collaboration with the Institute of Cancer Research (and the Science & Technology Facilities Council), the company is developing a ‘one-stop clinical assessment and treatment concept’ that would allow doctors to diagnose and treat some tumours in a single visit to a clinic.

Dr Ali Akgun, Specialty Scanners chief executive, told The Engineer that existing MR scanners are not designed to guide interventional procedures.

The new intra-operative magnetic resonance scanner would allow a doctor to make an assessment of a lesion and, if necessary, perform real-time, image-guided procedure such as cryoablation (removal by freezing) to remove it.

The company has already developed a prototype MR scanner that is capable of producing diagnostic images. Dr Akgun said the scanner will now be modified so that it supports cryoablation in an MR environment in real time.

MR is said to be advantageous to patients, as it does not use ionising radiation. However, the devices do present unique challenges at the design stage.

‘To achieve MR compatibility will require careful selection of materials,’ said Dr Akgun. ‘We won’t use ferrous materials and where possible we will keep conductive materials to a minimum. Also, monitoring and display systems will need to be carefully selected so that they work in a magnetic environment.’

Dr Akgun expects an MR-compatible biopsy and cryoablation system to be complete by 2011. He believes the new machine would cost 50 per cent less to manufacture than a general purpose scanner.