Targeting and Measuring with Hyperpolarized MRI

Doctors and researchers are driven to improve patient care and outcomes with questions like How can we see more? How can we more accurately locate abnormalities or learn which treatments are working?

“For years, we’ve wanted to get biochemical information from imaging scans. In our work at the Hyperpolarized MRI Technology Resource Center, we’re uncovering entirely new ways to find disease and monitor success of therapies,” said Dr. Daniel Vigneron, professor in the Departments of Radiology & Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering & Therapeutic Sciences at UCSF. “Hyperpolarization temporarily increases MRI signal, by orders of thousands. We’re developing improved techniques for prostate cancer, breast metastases, renal tumors, liver disease and more.”

Dr. Vigneron used prostate cancer as an example of the advances available with hyperpolarized MRI. “The difficulty with prostate cancer is that it’s hard to identify what’s aggressive and what isn’t, as well as its location. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. Most of it is clinically insignificant, but some can be very aggressive and require treatment. Hyperpolarized MRI allows us to pinpoint prostate cancer that could not be detected very well anatomically, and monitor its rate of progression. And in treatment, previously when a therapy was applied, sometimes we didn’t know if it had hit its target. Hyperpolarized MRI could tell us that.

“Hyperpolarized MRI allows us to evaluate new targeted chemotherapies for other abnormalities, too, to measure quantitatively whether they did what was intended. We also aim to characterize brain tumors and guide biopsies, surgeries and treatment. In research studies, we can use hyperpolarized MRI to learn more about organ function and blood flow in the body. It will help us understand disease at a biochemical level to a degree far beyond where we are now. I find it exciting that the technology can be used in so many different ways.”

Daniel B. Vigneron, PhD, is a professor in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging and a professor in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco. He is also director of the Advanced Imaging Technologies Resource Group, director of the Hyperpolarized MRI Technology Resource Center, and associate director of the Surbeck Laboratory for Advanced Imaging at UCSF. Dr. Vigneron’s professional activities focus on the advancement of biomedical MRI research. He leads the technical development aspects of hyperpolarized carbon-13 MR program at UCSF and is the principal investigator of three projects focused on new metabolic MRI techniques. He has published over 200 articles, over 10 book chapters and over 450 abstracts related to his research.