New MRI Contrast Agent Can Tell Aggressive Breast Cancer From Other Types
There are many types of cancer in several categories, such as estrogen receptor-positive and triple-negative breast cancers. Some are more aggressive than the others, and there can be a large difference in how the breast cancer is treated.
So figuring out the type of cancer is important, and the earlier this is found the better.
Magnetic resonance imaging machines can see the breast cancer tumors with the help of contrast agents. But differentiating between the types of breast cancer has been too much to ask.
That is, until now.
Some researchers found a contrasting agent which not only highlights breast cancer on the MRI, but does so in a way that differentiates aggressive breast cancer from less-aggressive forms.
Zhen-Rong Lu, M. Frank Rud0,y and Margaret Dormiter Rudy, Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, were behind the research.
MRIs, contrasting agents, and breast cancer
MRIs are used to scan the human body to produce a visual image. That image is sometimes a little muddled so it can be hard to tell a tumor from normal flesh.
This is what contrasting agents are for. They affect the electromagnetism of certain parts of the body, making those parts more distinguishable.
Most of those contrasting agents are based on gadolinium, which is a rare earth metal. Depending on what you attach the gadolinium to, it will highlight certain parts of the body.
However, gadolinium is toxic. It is often chelated or bound to something else, which helps the body to eradicate the metal from your system. Despite this, often some still remains. Gadolinium-based contrast agents are therefore very useful but their use is limited.
Lu and his team have created a contrast agent that is safer and more effective than other gadolinium contrast agents. It highlights breast cancer tumors for the MRI and also does so in a way which distinguishes between aggressive and less-aggressive breast cancer.
“Doing both will help doctors find the right treatment,” said Zheng-Rong Lu. Since different breast cancers require different treatment methods, identifying them quickly can help save lives.
This contrasting agent is unique in this effect. As Lu said, “There’s no such technology available now that we know of.”
The key to this new agent is the peptide
Lu’s new contrasting agent is a combination of tri-gadolinium nitride metallofullerene and a peptide called ZD2, which was invented in Lu’s laboratory. Even the shortened name of that agent is long: Gd3N@C80.
What makes this contrasting agent different is twofold: The ZD2, and the fullerene. A fullerene is a molecule that is basically a spherical latticework of carbon. It looks like a hollow soccer ball. The gadolinium ions bounce around inside that cage.
As Professor Lu explains, “The cage prevents direct contact between the gadolinium and tissue, and the gadolinium will not be released, which prevents any kind of interaction with tissue.”
This lets the gadolinium do its work for the MRI without getting caught up in the body’s processes. It does not accumulate in tissue and the dosage amount for a clear image is about twenty time smaller than other gadolinium-based contrast agents.
These are all positives, but there is another aspect to the new contrasting agent that is just as important. “But the key technology for our targeted contrast agent is the peptide attached,” said Lu.
Read on to learn more and how this can help breast cancer patients.