University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researchers have developed a new MRI technique that is able to detect prostate cancer in its early stages.
Prostate cancer tissue releases lower levels of zinc when compared to healthy prostatic tissue, allowing clinicians to differentiate between the two types of tissues.
MRI is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses harmless magnetic fields and radio waves. It is widely used in hospitals and in clinics for medical diagnosis and to monitor the progression of disease without exposing the body to ionizing radiation. Normal MRI’s, however, cannot reliably distinguish between zinc levels in healthy versus cancerous prostate tissue.
This new approach uses a novel zinc ion-sensing molecule in conjunction with MRI to detect very low levels of zinc ions released from inside epithelial cells when stimulated with glucose, therefore accurately identifying prostatic tumors.
“Prostate cancer often has no early symptoms, so identifying potential new diagnostic methods that might catch the cancer at an earlier stage or allow us to track how it is progressing is an important opportunity,” Dr. Neil Rofsky, chairman of radiology, director of translational research for the Advanced Imaging Research Center, and co-author of the study, said in a news release.
In their study, “Zinc-sensitive MRI contrast agent detects differential release of Zn(II) ions from the healthy vs. malignant mouse prostate,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team used a mouse model of prostate cancer to successfully detect small malignant lesions as early as 11 weeks, demonstrating the efficacy of the new technique.
“The potential for translating this method to human clinical imaging is very good, and will be useful for diagnostic purposes. The method may prove useful for monitoring therapies used to treat prostate cancer,” said Dr. A. Dean Sherry, director of the Advanced Imaging Research Center, professor of radiology at the University of Texas, and senior author of the study.