Getting the better of cancer

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WSARI Brisbane launches research into new ‘Nano’ MRI technique to accurately identify cancerous lymph nodes

In a ground-breaking international study, researchers at the Wesley-St Andrew’s Research Institute (WSARI) in Brisbane are launching a trial into a new MRI technique that could for the first time accurately identify cancerous lymph nodes.

While MRI can pinpoint cancer in major organs, specialists have had less success identifying lymph nodes where cancer cells may have spread. The new ‘Nano’ MRI technique, to be trialled on prostate cancer patients, involves injecting small iron particles into the bloodstream. When an MRI is performed 24 hours later, cancerous lymph nodes light up white while normal lymph nodes show up black in the MRI image.

Prof Jelle Barentsz-edited

Professor Jelle Barentsz from the Netherlands

The research is a partnership between WSARI researchers, urologists Dr Les Thompson and Dr Morgan Pokorny, radiologists, Dr Nick Brown, Dr David Wong and Dr Darren Ault, together with Professor Jelle Barentsz and his team from the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, in the Netherlands. A $1.5 million fundraising drive for the project was launched at the WSARI’s 21st anniversary gala evening in Brisbane on Saturday May 23.

“Advances in MRI technology and other treatments are significant in fighting cancer, but frequently healthy lymph nodes are removed while cancerous ones are spared because we haven’t had the images to detect the difference,” said Dr Thompson.

The MAGNIFI trial, to be conducted on high-risk prostate cancer patients at The Wesley Hospital, will be launched later this year. The research will compare the current best practice approach to prostate cancer screening — known as the PSMAGa68 PET scan — with the new Nano-MR technique, as well as analysing the pathology of the lymph nodes.

The current guidelines for prostate cancer treatment in high-risk patients are to remove both prostate and lymph nodes. All trial patients will undergo both Nano MRI and PSMAGa68 PET scans, as well as lymph node removal, which will be done robotically.

“We already know that the majority of lymph nodes removed during prostate cancer operations are not cancerous. We are not certain of the accuracy of lymph node imaging and this study aims to find this out,” Dr Thompson said.

Professor Christian Gericke, CEO and Director of Research of the WSARI, said the research was an example of 21 years of research leadership. “The Wesley St Andrew’s Research Institute has become a leader in clinical research, helping patients through improved diagnosis methods, new treatment options and increased quality of life post-treatment for many conditions. We are hoping to raise significant support for this important new research.”

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