Mayo Clinic study finds molecular breast imaging useful for cancer detection in dense breasts

The LumaGem MBI system--Courtesy of Gamma Medica

It's notoriously difficult for mammography to detect tumors in dense breast tissue. Now a recent study by the Mayo Clinic has found that adding molecular breast imaging (MBI) can effectively detect more cancers than mammography alone in dense breasts.

The researchers used the FDA-approved LumaGEM MBI System from startup Gamma Medica in the study. In October, that company got $11.5 million from Hercules Technology Growth Capital and existing investor Psilos Group.

The study, conducted by the Mayo Clinic and published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, found that the LumaGEM System detected an additional 8.8 cancers per 1,000 women screened when added to mammography. Of the cancers detected by MBI, 79% were invasive. Of these, 82% were node negative, which means the cancer is addressable with early intervention.

"The history of molecular breast imaging is a long and convoluted one. Several agents have been shown to be taken up by cancer; however, sufficient reliability has not been proven. Technetium-based compounds offer a real opportunity, but require adequate, specific and novel instrumentation above and beyond standard general detectors to provide reliable images at an acceptable dose. Until now, this has been an elusive goal," Dr. R. James Brenner, a Gamma Medica board member and the director of breast imaging for Bay Imaging Consultants, said in a statement.

LumaGEM utilizes a gamma camera and the technetium-99m (Tc-99m) sestamibi radiopharmaceutical, like breast-specific gamma imaging. But Gamma Medica's MBI technology also has a dual-head camera and cadmium zinc telluride (CZT) digital detectors.

The technology has a reduced radiation dose, from 20 mCi3 to 8 mCi, versus older generation gamma cameras. The researchers recommend MBI as an alternative to ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for women with dense breast tissue. They noted that ultrasound detects as few as half of cancers in women with dense breast tissue but result in a substantially increased cost.

Brenner concluded, "The current Mayo study provides a basis to think about the feasibility of now incorporating molecular imaging in the regular clinical evaluation of women, especially for patients at high risk or with dense breasts."

- here is the study and the release

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