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PET-MRI could improve treatment of early stage breast cancer

Researchers Drs. Rosa Di Micco and Oreste Gentilini – Photo Credit EROTC/Di Micco

CANCER DIGEST – March 23, 2024 – Early results of an ongoing study suggest that combination imaging using PET-MRI could be useful in treatment planning for women with early stage breast cancer.

A study presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference on March 20, 2024  showed that using combined PET-MRI resulted in altering the planned treatment in nearly a third of the patients.

Dr. Rosa Di Micco, a breast surgeon at the San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy presented the results from the early stage breast cancer patients, who were scheduled to have breast-conserving surgery.

“The standard approach for patients with early breast cancer includes mammography, ultrasound, and sometimes MRI," Di Micco said in a press release. "Combined PET-MRI is a relatively new approach, so it’s generally only used in clinical research.”

Led by Dr. Oreste Gentilini, the single-site study included 205 patients who were treated between July 2020 and October 2023. The patients were scheduled to undergo breast-conserving surgery, or lumpectomy, to remove small breast tumors. Before surgery, however, each patient underwent PET-MRI scans to look for signs of cancer spread within the affected breast or beyond (metastases).

In 57 women (27.8%) the scans revealed metastases that warranted changing the planned treatment. Of the 57 women, 18 were given chemotherapy before surgery, 39 underwent more extensive surgery, including mastectomy, or removal of lymph nodes (lymphectomy), and double mastectomy.

In 12 of the 57 women the additional tumor tissue removed turned out to be benign, which is considered a high percentage (21%) of false positives.

Despite that false positive rate, the researchers believe using PET-MRI could improve treatment planning.

“These are early results from an ongoing study, but they suggest that a PET-MRI scan could refine treatment for some breast cancer patients," Gentilini said. "It is an area where more research could be beneficial.”

Source: European Breast Cancer Conference press release


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