CINCINNATI—A new study at UC Health University Hospital involving technology that is not being used anyplace else in Cincinnati may help specialists find breast tumors in the earliest stages and biopsy them at the time of detection.
Amy Argus, MD, UC Health radiologist and investigator on the study, says the new technology—positron emission mammography (PEM)—uses radioactive glucose to help image tumors as small as 2 millimeters in size.
"We inject glucose into the patient’s bloodstream intravenously,” she says. "Tumors have a higher metabolism and tend to take up more of the glucose and trap it. The imaging is similar to a standard mammogram, but the panels are able to make the radioactive glucose visible.”
Argus says the high-resolution images resulting from PEM could help physicians determine how to move forward with diagnosis and treatment.
"PEM has been around for a while as a diagnostic tool,” she says. "Other studies have compared it to breast MRI, which is often used to find tumors. These studies suggest that PEM is as sensitive and/or more specific, meaning that it gives us less false positives, preventing us from taking biopsies on non-cancerous tissue.”
Researchers in this study will couple an investigational biopsy method with PEM to allow physicians to take a biopsy using PEM images.
"This is important because sometimes we’re only able to see abnormalities with PEM,” Argus says. "If an abnormality cannot be seen any other way, it is difficult to be sure that a biopsy is done in the correct location. In being able to take the biopsy using PEM, we’re able to get a more accurate sample.”
Argus says this technology could be extremely promising for patients who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
"PEM could help us find additional tumors or cancer cells that may have been missed by mammography—areas with additional disease,” she says. "We believe we will be able to make a diagnosis and deliver treatment faster by doing imaging and biopsies at the same time.
"Prior breast MRI research shows that 15 to 30 percent of patients have more disease that does not show during a standard mammography. This has the potential to help physicians find the disease and treat it in the quickest, most efficient way possible.”
Naviscan, the makers of the PEM Flex Solo II scanner, provided the equipment for this study. Argus receives no honoraria from Naviscan and cites no conflict of interest.