Imaging Innovation for Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment

When not fussing with idiot truck convoys, the Canadian research community is making some serious headway in identifying cancer cells. “Imaging” is the art and science of creating pictures of what we can’t see directly. Opening up your body to examine the inside of your prostate, pancreas of breast just isn’t a trivial thing to do. Unless absolutely necessary, most people quite sensibly would rather not.

This most recent advance in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) relies on differences in the motion of water molecules in health and cancerous cells. The irregular structure of cancer cells causes this difference in motion. The new form of MRI is called synthetic correlated diffusion imaging, and it causes cancer cells to “light up” on the images the MRI produces, making them easier for the technician and doctor to recognize.

Why does a better picture matter? Simply, you can more easily see the full extent of a cancer — where it is and how far it has spread — allowing better targeting of focused treatment as well as more accurate and complete removal if surgery is required. Better diagnosis, better treatment, better result. Makes sense?

To date, this technique has been tested on prostate and breast cancers in clinical trials in the Toronto area. The research team driving this work is based at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

The pertinent question is that if this technology works, as it appears to do, how quickly can it be commercialized and disseminated so that patients can have access to it. Prior to that, if a patient needs access, it will come through signing up for a clinical trial.

Do I need to do a post on how to find a clinical trial? (Seriously, let me know.)

Finally, there’s a category of health insurance called supplemental insurance. The key item for this discussion is cancer indemnity insurance. Typically but not always, these policies are inexpensive and pay a fixed amount on diagnosis. If the patient needs to travel for treatment, these policies can fund that expense. If cancer is something that worries you, this would be a good resource to have. (Again, if you want to know more, just let me know.)

Sources:

  1. Alexander Wong, Hayden Gunraj, Vignesh Sivan, Masoom A. Haider. Synthetic correlated diffusion imaging hyperintensity delineates clinically significant prostate cancer. Scientific Reports, 2022; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-06872-7
  2. University of Waterloo. “MRI innovation makes cancerous tissue light up and easier to see.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/03/220321091914.htm>.

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