Would you describe what Molecular Mammographic Imaging is and what is its current status?
Answer by Chris Flowers, MD- Director of Breast Imaging and Research, is a radiologist at Moffitt Cancer Center affiliated with the Center for Women’s Oncology and the Diagnostic Imaging Program.
A: Current mammography is the gold standard tool for breast imaging with a high sensitivity and specificity. However, mammography is imperfect, and the sensitivity can vary depending on both age of the patient and the density of the breast tissue. Our diagnosis up to now has relied on specific features on the X-ray to help us decide what is benign and what is malignant. Mammography has had a reasonable report so far, but could do better, may sum it up best.
We have described molecular mammography applied to the description of a simple technique we developed at the University of California, San Francisco, and is now the subject of a major grant between University of California - San Francisco, Chicago University and Moffitt Cancer Center. We believe that we can get much more information out of standard mammography than just anatomical information. By using a tiny dual energy exposure, without having to use contrast injections, we have been able to devise a way of looking at water, lipid and protein maps of the breast. What we have found from our phantom and pilot studies was that when these maps are combined, we get a unique signature from a benign lump (such as a fibroadenoma) compared with that from a cancer. If we are able to validate our work by further studies, then a mammography result will not just give information about appearances, but will also guide radiologists to whether it is likely to be benign or a malignant condition. One day this improved specificity may even allow us to avoid biopsy in women with definitively benign lesions.