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Researchers develop painless method to evaluate tumor progression

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-12-02 11:54

NANJING - Chinese researchers have developed a new evaluating model using medical imaging to help painlessly evaluate tumor progression in patients.

Doctors usually use the biological characteristics of tumors to observe the progress and response to treatment, such as if there are gene mutations or malignant features. Previous studies have shown that identifying the biological characteristics may contribute to better treatment and may increase survival rates.

Traditional methods to get tumor tissue include surgery and puncture, which are invasive, painful and costly.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, along with doctors from the Sixth Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, built a computer model to make assessments based on tumor tissue characteristics captured by a medical imaging technique.

The research focused on rectal tumors and involved 345 patients with rectal tumor cells who underwent multiparametric magnetic resonance imaging (MP-MRI), from June 2013 to October 2016.

Through MP-MRI scanning, researchers extracted thousands of imaging features from 197 patients and selected five typical ones as biomarkers to show the characteristics of tumor cells, including how they grow and spread.

They built a model with these biomarkers and fed it images of the other 148 patients, who had surgeries to evaluate tumor progression two weeks later after MP-MRI scanning.

"The evaluation results of the model are more than 60 percent similar with that of traditional methods," said lead researcher Gao Xin, from the Suzhou Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Technology.

The research was recently published in the journal European Radiology.

"Despite these positive results," Gao said, "more data is still needed to confirm the validity and reliability of the model."

The research team is also testing the model in patients with breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and brain tumors.

Apart from MRIs, more medical imaging techniques such as ultrasound and computed tomography (CT) are being integrated with the latest technologies, to noninvasively and repeatedly capture tumor characteristics.

"The imaging techniques are painless, and their cost will be lower than that of surgery or puncture," said Gao.

"It can also provide complementary information in evaluating specific tumor types when doctors can't get the tumor tissue through traditional invasive methods."

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