Dr. Elizabeth Maher and Dr. Changho Choi looked at brain imaging on a computer screen that until recently would not have told the complete story.
Both researchers modified the settings of an MRI scanner to track the protein levels associated with a mutated gene found in 80% of low to intermediate grade tumors.
Dr. Maher, the senior author of the study said the new technique will help identify small changes in specific tumors.
"What this test does is it allows us, like if you had a Geiger counter on the beach, to detect those individual cells and get an increase in the signal when there are more cells there,” Dr. Maher said.
The images used to be fuzzy but now imaging can measure the growth--the smaller the spike in the graph the better.
25 year-old Thomas Smith and 29 others enrolled in the UT Southwestern Medical Center study--each had biopsy samples taken after imaging with the new technique.
Half had the mutation and high levels of the protein--the new test predicted the outcome with 100% accuracy.
Thomas had brain surgery in 2007 but still suffered seizures because some of the tumor remained.
The test told doctors the best time to start chemotherapy.
"I'm cancer free and though the chemotherapy and went from you know a many number of seizures to where I'm setting now about one every couple of weeks," Thomas said.
Dr. Maher said the new test may reduce the number of surgeries at diagnosis--all because once hidden tumor growth can now be detected more easily.
"We haven't had great imaging in the past,” Dr. Maher said. “We have fluffy images, have fluffy images that change a little bit or a lot but it doesn't really correlate with small changes in the tumor."
Thomas is down from the peak and expects he’ll like the view of his next imaging.
"I'm going to be pretty happy to see what the next one says."
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