Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Researchers Develop a New MRI Tool to Detect, Track Cancer Progression

The tool developed by a team of University of Waterloo researchers makes cancerous tissue glow in medical images, helping doctors accurately sense the growth of malignancy
March 23, 2022
Representational image

A team of University of Waterloo researchers has developed a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tool to accurately detect and track the progression of cancer.

The new MRI tool makes cancerous tissue glow in medical images. The innovation can create images wherein cancerous tissue appear to light up compared to healthy tissue, making it easier for doctors to spot and capture over time.

The tool was developed as a part of a study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Alexander Wong, Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Medical Imaging and a professor of systems design engineering at Waterloo, said, “This new technology has promising potential to improve cancer screening, prognosis and treatment planning.”

In a statement, the researchers said that the irregular packing of cells leads to differences in the way water molecules move in cancerous tissue compared to healthy tissue. The new technology – called synthetic correlated diffusion imaging – highlights these differences by capturing, synthesising and mixing MRI signals at different gradient pulse strengths and timings.

In the largest study of its kind, the University of Waterloo researchers collaborated with medical experts at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, several Toronto hospitals and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to apply the technology to a cohort of 200 patients with prostate cancer.

Compared to standard MRI techniques, the synthetic correlated diffusion imaging was found to be better at delineating significant cancerous tissue, making it a potentially powerful tool for doctors and radiologists.

“Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in more developed countries,” said Wong, also a director of the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) Lab at Waterloo, explaining why the team targeted this cancer first in its research.

“We also have very promising results for breast cancer screening, detection and treatment planning. This could be a game-changer for many kinds of cancer imaging and clinical decision support,” Wong added.