University of Alberta
Researchers at the University of Alberta are working to enhance the accuracy of medical imaging—efforts that will improve early evaluation of treatments in the fight against cancer.
The spine is a common area for breast cancer to metastasize, leading to a significant reduction in a patient’s quality of life due to chronic back pain, weakness and even paralysis. Palliative radiation therapy to relieve symptoms and reduce suffering is standard practice, but clinicians aren’t always sure how well the therapy is working.
Better medical imaging would help doctors track the effectiveness of treatments. Research suggests that fat levels in spinal bone marrow decrease when a tumour grows and increase in positive response to treatment. More accurate measurements of fat levels would give clinicians a better picture of how a tumour is responding to therapy. That’s why researchers in the Department of Oncology (Division of Medical Physics located at the Cross Cancer Institute) at the University of Alberta are studying ways to improve measurement of fat in spinal bone marrow.
Dylan Breitkreutz, winner of a master’s level NSERC 2013 André Hamer Postgraduate Prize, is focusing his research on magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)—a technique similar to MRI.
Breitkreutz is drawing on his experience in computational mathematics, biophysics and biomedical engineering to investigate how changing the radio-frequency pulses in MRS can reduce signal loss in imaged fat. The result would produce more accurate measurements of fat concentrations, and over time, improved treatments for patients.