New Imaging Device Sees the Smallest Breast Tumors
WVU Scientist is Lead Author of Study
A new medical imaging device that can detect very small breast tumors, even in dense breasts, could help women avoid unnecessary biopsies, according to a West Virginia University study.

The results of the initial testing of the new PEM/PET system will be published in the journal “Physics in Medicine and Biology” on Feb. 7.  

The PEM/PET system uses positron emission mammography (PEM) and positron emission tomography (PET).  It is designed to more accurately scan the unique contours and tissues of breasts.  

 WVU scientist Ray Raylman, Ph.D., vice chair of Radiology Research at the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center uses the new PEM-PET machine.

It was developed by WVU scientist Ray Raylman, Ph.D., vice chair of Radiology Research at the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, in collaboration with scientists at the Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility and the University of Maryland. 

The new device provides high-resolution, three-dimensional scans of the breast and can also perform biopsies.  It allows doctors to spot tumors that can be missed on standard mammography.

PEM/PET is especially useful in imaging tumors in women who have indeterminate mammograms because of dense breasts. If a tumor is suspected to be cancerous, a needle biopsy can be performed with a remote-controlled robot arm.

 “With standard mammography, many women with dense breasts and questionable results undergo biopsies,” Raylman said. “Those biopsies often result in a benign diagnosis.  The PEM/PET imager may be more effective in identifying those lesions that have a high likelihood of being cancerous; so fewer unnecessary biopsies will be performed. “

Raylman said the ability of the device to do biopsies as well as imaging is one of its unique characteristics. The PEM/PET system can complete an image and biopsy in about the same time it would take a doctor to conduct one biopsy using current methods.” 

“The work of Dr. Raylman and the team that put this incredible device together will affect women not only in West Virginia, but throughout the world,” Scot Remick, M.D., director of the Cancer Center, said.  “This is an example of research at WVU having a direct impact on patient care.”

The PEM/PET system was designed and built at WVU in collaboration between the Department of Radiology and the School of Engineering, with some elements constructed by collaborators at Jefferson Lab and the University of Maryland.  The research was supported by a National Cancer Institute grant to WVU, and by the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. 

Clinical trials could begin at WVU as early as fall 2008.

PET research at WVU began in the 1990s, when U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., secured a $10 million appropriation for WVU’s first PET Scanner.  A PET scan detects metabolic signals of actively growing cancer cells in the body.

For more information on the WVU Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/.

- WVU -

For more information:
Cassie Waugh, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087
aj/cw: 01-28-08

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