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Here comes a unique Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan that could improve care for bone marrow cancer patients.
The new whole-body, diffusion-weighted MRI scans showed the spread of cancer throughout the bone marrow of patients with myeloma - one of the most common forms of blood cancer - more accurately than standard tests.
The scans also showed whether the patients were responding to cancer treatments, said researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.
In the study, 26 patients had whole-body MRI scans before and after treatment. (Read: Bone Cancer types, causes, symptoms and treatment)
In 86 percent of cases, experienced doctors trained in imaging were able to correctly identify whether patients responded to treatment.
The doctors also correctly identified those patients who weren't responding to treatment 80 percent of the time.
Using the scanning technique, doctors could pinpoint exactly where the cancer was in the bones, with the results available immediately.
Conventional tests include bone marrow biopsies and blood tests but neither shows accurately where the cancer is present in the bones.
'This is the first time we've been able to obtain information from all the bones in the entire body for myeloma in one scan without having to rely on individual bone X-rays,' said Nandita deSouza, professor of translational imaging at the Institute of Cancer Research.
'We can look on the screen and see straight away where the cancer is and measure how severe it is. The scan is better than blood tests which don't tell us in which bones the cancer is located,' she added.
'It also reduces the need for uncomfortable biopsies which do not reveal the extent or severity of the disease,' said the study. (Read: Side effects of bone marrow transplant)
'In the future, we hope this new tool would help doctors extend the life of more myeloma patients,' added Faith Davies, member of the Myeloma targeted treatment team at the Institute of Cancer Research and honorary consultant at The Royal Marsden.
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