New 3D Imaging Technique Doubles Brain Tumor Visibility

A new three-dimensional imaging technique developed by researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine significantly improves the visibility of brain tumors in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, potentially enabling earlier diagnosis of tumors.

T1 relaxation-enhanced steady-state (T1RESS) is a novel MRI pulse sequence that allows for intravascular signals to be toggled on and off in contrast-enhanced scans. The novel technique was tested in a proof-of-concept study of 54 patients with brain tumors and was found to provide two-fold improvement in the contrast between tumors and normal brain tissue compared with existing MRI imaging, improving tumor visibility and detection. The technique’s benefit was particularly notable in very small malignant tumors, which may be missed with standard imaging.

“In the case of brain tumors, T1RESS doubles the contrast between tumors and normal brain, so the tumors are more easily detected. It’s like looking at the stars on a dark night instead of on a sunny day,” said lead author Robert Edelman, MD, in a press release.

The researchers are hopeful that improved visibility of tumor margins on these contrast-enhanced scans will ensure the entire tumor is treated.

“Our goal is for the new technique…to help thousands of patients by allowing malignant tumors to be detected at an earlier, more curable stage,” said Dr. Edelman.

Findings from this initial study will need to be confirmed in a larger multi-site trial, but the technology itself will be simple to implement onto existing MRI technology, according to the investigators. The technique could potentially improve imaging for other cancers, such as breast and prostate.

The study was published in Science Advances.