BIOMEDICINE: Cancer Detection in the Iron Age

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Science  04 Jul 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5629, pp. 19d
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5629.19d

Prostate cancer accounts for about 15% of all cancers in men in developed countries. A critical factor in treatment decisions for newly diagnosed patients is whether the tumor has metastasized to local and distant lymph nodes. Unfortunately, current methods for noninvasive detection of metastases are limited in their sensitivity.

Harisinghani et al. report promising results from a clinical study combining high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with an imaging agent: lymphotrophic superparamagnetic nanoparticles. These iron-containing particles target to lymph nodes and accumulate when there are disturbances in lymph flow or nodal architecture caused by metastases; these densities are detectable by MRI. The analysis of 80 prostate cancer patients indicates that this imaging method is more sensitive and specific than conventional MRI, suggesting that larger prospective trials of the technology are warranted. — PAK

N. Engl. J. Med. 348, 2491 (2003).

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