U.K. researchers craft fluorine-based MR compound

August 20, 2007

A fluorine-based chemical compound may lead to the development of a chemically sensitive MR scan to help identify the extent of progression of diseases such as cancer. It holds the potential to definitively identify cancer without the need for intrusive biopsies, according to David Parker, a professor of chemistry at Durham University in the U.K.

A fluorine-based chemical compound may lead to the development of a chemically sensitive MR scan to help identify the extent of progression of diseases such as cancer. It holds the potential to definitively identify cancer without the need for intrusive biopsies, according to David Parker, a professor of chemistry at Durham University in the U.K.

"When it is introduced in this form, (the compound) acts differently depending on the acidity levels in a certain area, offering the potential to locate and highlight cancerous tissue," he said. "In principle, this approach could be of considerable benefit in the diagnosis of diseases such as breast, liver, or prostate cancer."

The U.K. researchers are the first, according to Parker, to develop a fluorine-based compound compatible with existing MR scanners at doses low enough to pose no danger to patients.

"We have taken an important first step toward the development of a selective new imaging method. However, we appreciate that there is a lot of work to do to take this laboratory work and put it into practice," he said.

Durham University has filed a patent on this new approach and is looking for commercial partners. Parker and colleagues are part of a group at the university focused on developing new ways of imaging cancer.

Their work on the fluorine-based compound is part of an effort to develop a new generation of MR contrast agents necessitated by an expected shift in the installed base of high-performance scanners toward 3T. Many of the current range of gadolinium-based agents that work well at 1.5T are much less effective at this higher field, he said. This fact, coupled with the need to find contrast agents that are intrinsically more efficient, is driving the search at Durham for new contrast agents.

Some may involve new types of gadolinium complexes. Others, as in the case of the fluorine compound, may leverage the ability of the agent to map pH gradients in vivo. This would be of benefit not only in the diagnosis of cancer but in the assessment of kidney function, particularly in patients with renal failure or those who are undergoing dialysis.