CONTACT: BECKY SOGLIN
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-6660; fax (319) 335-9917
Release: April 7, 1999
UI researchers study MRI as predictor of treatment
success in cervical cancer
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa researchers are
studying how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help physicians choose effective
treatments for women with advanced cervical cancer.
A $700,000 National Institutes of Health grant supports
a five-year clinical study led by Nina A. Mayr, M.D., UI associate professor
of radiation oncology.
"To improve treatment outcomes for women with cervical
cancer, physicians need to predict as accurately as possible how well therapy
will work for each patient," Mayr said. "Our study looks at how the MRI can
provide a more accurate prediction of how effective radiation and chemotherapy
treatment will be for each patient."
Mayr said a predictor is important because physicians
need to use more intensive therapies for women whose cervical cancers will
likely not respond to standard treatment and, conversely, to avoid unnecessary
complications from intensified therapies in those women who will do well with
The five-year survival rate for women with stage II or
III cervical cancer is only about 65 percent. That statistic fuels the researchers'
effort to improve treatment success, Mayr said. She added that a treatment
success predictor is "hard to come by."
"Most tests can't tell the physician about treatment effectiveness
until the cancer has already recurred." Mayr said. "But you need to know this
information before or very early in the treatment course. Then the physician
can adjust the treatment plan and give the patient the best chance. If you
don't use the best possible therapy the first time around, the chance of successful
treatment is often lost by the time the tumor recurs."
The MRI can give results within about 30 minutes, and
the procedure is easy for the patient, Mayr said. The precise images reveal
how much blood and oxygen is reaching a tumor.
"Tumor blood supply is a critical factor for the success
of therapy," Mayr explained. "The better the blood supply, the more likely
the tumor will respond to radiation and chemotherapy."
Mayr's predictor method adapts a novel MRI technique called
perfusion imaging that was originally developed by William T. Yuh, M.D., UI
professor of radiology and co-principal investigator of this study. He first
used the technique to assess the blood supply of stroke patients.
Mayr believes the cervical
cancer MRI predictor study is the first of its kind. She said early results
of the study of Iowa women show that the method is "promising and can predict
treatment outcome very early." But she cautioned that the results are preliminary
and require more study.
The complete study will determine how the MRI can help
physicians identify patients with cervical cancer who will not respond to
"Ultimately, we hope to use the MRI findings to decide
whether to change therapy up front for a patient to improve her chances of
successful treatment," Mayr said.
Patients in the clinical trial will receive a diagnostic
MRI usually just before beginning a combined radiation and chemotherapy course
of treatment. After two weeks of therapy, they will have a second MRI to determine
whether the treatment is working. A third MRI is done after five weeks.
The UI clinical study will be open for another four and
a half years to women who have stage IB2, II, III or IVA cervical
cancer. Physicians or patients who are interested in the study should call
Mayr at (319) 356-4884.