Breakthrough in Brain Tumor Diagnosis

A new imaging technique to diagnose brain tumors could preclude the need for surgery in patients whose tumors are located in areas of the brain too dangerous to biopsy, say UT Southwestern researchers who developed the technique.

The new magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) technique provides a definitive diagnosis of cancer based on imaging of a protein associated with a mutated gene found in 80 percent of low- and intermediate grade gliomas, a common type of brain tumor.

“This is a major breakthrough for brain tumor patients,” says Elizabeth Maher, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics and senior author of a study on the technique that appeared in Nature Medicine.

UT Southwestern researchers developed the test by modifying the settings of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner to track the protein’s levels. Previous research linked high levels of the protein to the cancerous mutation.

Clinical trials at UT Southwestern to test the new diagnostic tool predicted, with 100 percent accuracy, which patients had the mutation.