Philips advances quantitative MR

May 7, 2008

Quantitative MR, characterized by the precise measurement of data points that underlie MR images, may one day provide an exact and definable basis to recognize the early signs of disease and response to therapy. Philips Healthcare is moving toward that day, developing techniques that quantify the presence of cancerous tumors and heart disease.

Quantitative MR, characterized by the precise measurement of data points that underlie MR images, may one day provide an exact and definable basis to recognize the early signs of disease and response to therapy. Philips Healthcare is moving toward that day, developing techniques that quantify the presence of cancerous tumors and heart disease.

Stefanie Winkelmann, Ph.D., a Philips research scientist, explained how quantitative MR might be used to characterize tumor parameters such as vascular growth, hemodynamic changes in the response to treatments, and the permeability of vasculature. Similar signs of health might be seen in the heart through the quantification of scar tissue or plaque.

Research presented by Winkelmann focused on quantifying cancer. Her studies were done on animals, MR phantoms, and a small number of healthy volunteers, as Philips staff and luminaries tested sequences and postprocessing algorithms. One preclinical study on mice and phantoms demonstrated the potential for a new sequence and dedicated postprocessing algorithm, both developed by Philips, to measure blood vessels in tumors in mice.

"We have established the technical basis," she said. "Now the clinic has to evaluate this."

Such studies are the first step toward translating sequences and postprocessing algorithms to clinical use. The need to quantify disease processes will push their development, according to Winkelmann. Already early efforts have led to human studies.

"We have techniques to measure the blood volume within a tumor," she said. "This has been shown in preclinical studies, and we have now tested it in our first patients with all kinds of tumors, some of them while undergoing therapy. Whether it really works still must be evaluated by clinical partners in larger trials."