Dr Konstantin Momot,
Queensland University of Technology

Development of single-sided portable NMR methods for the sensing of mammographic density

Mammographic Density (MD), defined as the exposure intensity in an X-ray mammogram of the breast, has major implications in overall breast cancer (BC) risk, likelihood of ‘interval cancers’ arising between annual mammograms, and monitoring response to hormonal chemoprevention and adjuvant therapies. There is thus a growing need for accurate quantitative assessment of MD, and mammary features in areas of high MD, whilst avoiding exposure to ionising radiation. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a powerful and proven alternative to X-ray-based mammography that can identify areas of high MD as well as benign and malignant abnormalities. However, cost is a major impediment to the use of MRI for routine MD assessment.

Portable single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance (portable NMR) was developed in the mid-1990s as a low-cost, low-maintenance, mobile NMR sensing technology. It has been successfully used in industrial and manufacturing settings and is finding biomedical applications. We will present our recent results concerning the use of portable NMR for quantitative assessment of MD in breast tissue samples in vitro using spin-relaxation times (T1, T2) and diffusion characteristics of the tissue. The findings demonstrate that portable NMR can reliably characterise MD in vitro, and they also suggest that it may provide a low-cost means of assessing mammographic density in vivo. T2- and diffusion-based portable-NMR analyses enable quantitative characterisation of tissue composition.  The results suggest that portable NMR is an approach that holds promise and, indeed, may represent a novel imaging paradigm in some biomedical applications.

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