Radiation-Free MRI Scans Now Viable to Assess Cancer in Children

First Posted: Feb 19, 2014 12:30 PM EST

Researchers from the Stanford University's School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital discovered that MRI-based imaging techniques may be just as effective as other conventional scanning methods minus the radiation risks that come with cancer detection.

In order to search for potentially cancerous cells, medical officials often must send radioactive traces through the body as part of PET-CT scans that expose a patient to the equivalent of 700 chest X-rays, according to the study.

For pediatric patients, this can be particularly risky as their brains and bodies are still in a crucial stage of development, and radiation exposure could potentially lead to secondary forms of cancer later in life.

The study-composed of 22 children with malignant lymphomas or sarcomas--showed that exposure can almost triple the risk of cancer in children, compared to those over 30.

Due to such risks, the team worked to investigate the safety and effectiveness of an MRI-based approach that mimics the PET-CT scan's results, via an iron supplement.

"I'm excited about having an imaging test for cancer patients that requires zero radiation exposure," said senior author of the study, Dr. Heike Daldrup-Link, associate professor of radiology at Stanford and a diagnostic radiologist at the hospital, via a press release. "That is a big deal."

Though researchers note that a larger group of patients will need to be tested in order to confirm the validity of the results, the study shows that an iron supplement can increase the visibility on traditional MRI scans with no adverse reactions from ferumoxytol supplements.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal The Lancet Oncology

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