Traditionally when a small tumor is discovered in the kidney an invasive and painful biopsy is needed to ultimately determine if it is malignant or benign. Researchers at UT Southwestern have developed a breakthrough new method that uses current Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology to accurately identify the composition and aggressiveness of a tumor without a biopsy.
“Biopsies are not entirely free of pain and discomfort,” explains Jeffrey Cadeddu, co-author on the new study. “Some patients, in fact, choose to observe the cancer simply to avoid the pain of the biopsy.”
The new technique is called multiparametric MRI (mpMRI) and it involves a standardized diagnostic algorithm that evaluates several specific MRI images of a targeted renal mass. The method accounts for several factors across different MRI images including the presence of microscopic fat in the tumor and the signal intensity on T2-weighted imaging.
“Using mpMRI, multiple types of images can be obtained from the renal mass and each one tells us something about the tissue,” says Ivan Pedrosa, another co-author on the study.
The method isn’t intended to be a replacement for classical biopsies but rather an additional investigative step that will hopefully reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies, or confirm the need of a biopsy for patients who would otherwise avoid them. The current method proposed by the research suggests physicians, aided by information supplied by the algorithm, can identify the most common malignant form of kidney tumor with a confidence of 80 percent.
Further work to verify these results will be necessary before the method is more broadly rolled out but the study suggests this could be a valuable additional technique in a doctor’s diagnostic toolkit.
The research team explains the innovation in the video below.
The new study was published in The Journal of Urology.