Magnetic Resonance Imaging Significantly
Better than Mammography for Detecting Number and Size
of Tumors in Breast Cancer,
First International Study Shows
Abramson Cancer Center and International Breast
MRI Consortium Present Research
at ASCO: Presentation #AB-1456
(New Orleans, LA) – Researchers from the Abramson
Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
today presented the first comprehensive study results
which show that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is
significantly better than traditional mammography for
detecting the presence and extent of disease in patients
with a diagnosis of breast cancer. The research has
significant implications for women considering surgical
options – other than a full mastectomy –
to remove their breast cancer, such as a lumpectomy.
Indeed, an MRI is recommended for all women considering
surgical options, in order to detect the full extent
of the breast cancer prior to surgery, yet preserve
as much healthy breast tissue as possible. Abramson
researchers led the first international, multi-site
group of researchers to study the subject – the
International Breast MRI Consortium (IBMC) – and
presented their results at the 40th Annual Meeting of
the American Society for Clinical Oncology in New Orleans.
“There has never really been a gold standard
for detecting how many tumors or how widespread is a
women’s breast cancer,” said study principal
investigator and professor Mitchell Schnall,
MD, PhD, a radiologist at the Cancer Center
and chief of the MRI section at the University of Pennsylvania
Medical Center. “These study results are very
conclusive that breast MRI works better for detecting
breast cancer, and physicians – when evaluating
surgical options for breast conservation – should
be using MRI over traditional mammography with physical
exam for determining how widespread the tumors are and
how much tissue really needs to be removed.”
The study – at 17 different sites throughout the
US, Canada and Germany – examined more than 1000
women, most of whom were over the age of 40, for a period
of three years. All of the women had suspicious lesions
on their mammograms, which required further investigation
to see if cancer was present. Each participant had both
follow-up mammograms and MRIs. Cancer was confirmed
by a biopsy, surgical removal and microscopic examination
of the tissue. Of the 428 women who had breast cancer,
MRI detected additional cancerous lesions in 56 women,
while mammograms detected additional lesions in only
17. In statistical terms, MRI was more than 2 times
as effective than mammography in detecting multiple
Prior to this international study, only single-site
data was available and, due to small populations (less
than 100 women) and the increased potential for single-population
bias, the results could not be considered conclusive.
“The impact for patient care is significant,”
said Schnall. “Because MRI is so sensitive at
detecting as much of the breast cancer as possible,
we can hopefully improve the effectiveness of lumpectomy
by reducing the rate of recurrence of breast cancer.”
“Additionally, if we capture more of the cancer
at the time of detection, there will be less of a need
for radiation therapy after surgery – allowing
for fewer side effects from treatment.”
Current statistics for the recurrence of breast cancer
– after breast conservation therapy, such as lumpectomy
– are three to 19 percent after ten years. Preventing
recurrence is strongly linked to removing all tumors,
through full surgical margins (the amount of surrounding
tissue that is removed along with the tumor) and accurate
detection of cancerous tissue.
MRI is a non-invasive procedure that uses powerful magnets
and radio waves to construct pictures of the body. Unlike
conventional X-rays, MRI imaging uses the magnetic properties
of atoms to differentiate organs, and contrast benign
and malignant tissue. Imaging planes (or "slices")
from any part of the body can be projected, stored in
a computer, or printed on film. MRI can easily be performed
through clothing and bones.
Funding for the study was provided through a research
grant in 1997 from the National Cancer Institute that
totaled nearly $5 million. At the time, it was the largest
grant ever awarded for breast MRI research.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2004 over
200,000 American women (11,000 in Pennsylvania alone)
will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 will
die from the disease.
a printer friendly version of this release, click
About the Abramson Cancer Center:
The Abramson Cancer Center of the University
of Pennsylvania was established in 1973 as
a center of excellence in cancer research, patient care,
education and outreach. Today, the Abramson Cancer Center
ranks as one of the nation’s best in cancer care,
according to US News and World Report, and is one of
the top five in National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding.
It is one of only 39 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer
centers in the United States. Home to one of the largest
clinical and research programs in the world, the Abramson
Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania has
275 active cancer researchers and 250 Penn physicians
involved in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
More information about the Abramson Cancer Center is
available at: www.pennhealth.com/cancer
Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $8.6 billion enterprise.
The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top medical schools in the United States for more than 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $494 million awarded in the 2019 fiscal year.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities include: the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center—which are recognized as one of the nation’s top “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report—Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Medicine Princeton Health; and Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.
Penn Medicine is powered by a talented and dedicated workforce of more than 43,900 people. The organization also has alliances with top community health systems across both Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey, creating more options for patients no matter where they live.
Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2019, Penn Medicine provided more than $583 million to benefit our community.