Novel lung cancer MRI technique shows promise for improving radiotherapy treatment planning

Written by Rachel Jenkins, Future Science Group

A study conducted by researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (both London, UK) combined standard 2D MRI images of the chests of healthy volunteers to create ‘super-resolution’ videos, showing the lungs expanding and contracting. 

Recently published in Radiotherapy and Oncology the technique creates images of structures inside the body that are five times more detailed than other methods using MRI and can also be carried out more quickly.

This could help deliver precise radiotherapy for lung cancer by helping doctors to predict the location of the tumor more effectively, even as it moves. The technique, T2-weighted MRI, aims to image and treat tumors simultaneously via dual imaging and radiotherapy systems.

The study investigated eight healthy volunteers scanned using standard MRI. The images were then sorted and stitched together by computer to build accurate, high resolution movies of them breathing. The technique can also reproduce detailed images of slices of the body by combining multiple MRIs of the body from different orientations.

Martin Leach (Institute of Cancer Research) commented: “Radiotherapy treatment for lung cancer is currently planned using CT scans of patients to measure their breathing patterns, but it’s hard to see the tumor on these images and so the radiotherapy delivered may not be effectively treating the cancer.”

Andreas Wetscherek (Institute of Cancer Research) concluded: “Our study describes the development of a new technique for rebuilding static MRI images into moving videos, which could give MRI the edge over CT scans in the future planning of radiotherapy treatment…It also shows the potential of moving T2 weighted MRI for systems like the MR Linac, which are being designed to image and treat patients with radiotherapy at the same time.”

Sources: Freedman JN, Collins DJ, Gurney-Champion OJ et al. Super-resolution T2-weighted 4D MRI for image guided radiotherapy Radiother. Oncol. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.radonc.2018.05.015 (2018)(Epub ahead of print); www.icr.ac.uk/news-archive/new-super-resolution-mri-could-help-plan-radiotherapy-treatment-for-lung-cancer