A new imaging technique that shows the difference between cancerous cells and normal cells may one day make biopsies a thing of the past.
Developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University in the US, the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique, so far tested only in test tube-grown cells and mice was described in a report published in the online journal Nature Communications.
While imaging tests like mammograms or CT scans are used to detect tumours, figuring out whether a growth is or is not cancer usually requires a biopsy to study cells directly. The new imaging method non-invasively detected telltale sugar molecules shed by the outer membranes of cancerous cells.
Bulte's research builds on recent findings by others that indicate glucose can be detected by a fine-tuned MRI technique based on the unique way it interacts with surrounding water molecules without administering dyes.
However, Bulte cautioned that much more testing is needed to show that the technique has value in human cancer diagnosis.