Researches have developed a genetic mapping tool which could allow for better diagnosis and treatment of common tumors, according to a study published Monday.
The study was focused on mapping the molecular features of the most common and deadly primary brain tumor so that its various subtypes could be recognized in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
But the same method could be used to better identify other tumor types, said lead author Michael Kuo of the University of California at San Diego.
"We found a way to allow MRIs to give us detailed molecular information about these tumors," he said in a telephone interview.
"In the past the only way you'd get it is by doing invasive biopsies and running expensive tests that aren't standardized."
Kuo and his team used biopsy samples to map the genetic structure of different subtypes of the tumors and compared them to MRI scans from the patients who had provided the biopsy tissue.
They were able to find specific features of the tumor subtypes that could be identified in the highly detailed image, potentially eliminating the need for a biopsy.
"Now you can look at the image and say here is the tumor, here it is in the brain, but also these are some of its molecular features," he said, adding that his group published a paper last year showing how this method could work on another type of tumor using a different imaging type.
"It's a robust and scalable technology," he said.
"It can work with different imaging technologies such as CAT scans and MRIs and it looks like it works in different tumor types such as liver cancer."
While the method will have to undergo further testing before it is ready for clinical use, it could eventually help doctors design better treatment plans by identifying which subtypes of tumors respond to which treatments.
"The goal in medicine is the right drug for the right person," Kuo said. "This is one potential method that is showing initial promise that it may be able to help us with that."
The study was published in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.