WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- A pioneering scanning technique that can image a patient's entire body could improve treatment for people with a type of bone marrow cancer called myeloma, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The new whole-body, diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans could also reduce patients' reliance on bone marrow biopsies, which can be painful and often fail to show doctors how far the disease has spread.
In the study published in the U.S. journal Radiology, 26 patients with myeloma, one of the most common forms of blood cancer, had whole-body, diffusion-weighted MRI scans before and after treatment.
In 86 percent of cases, experienced doctors trained in imaging were able to correctly identify whether patients responded to treatment.
The doctors also correctly identified those patients who weren' t responding to treatment 80 percent of the time.
Conventional tests include bone marrow biopsies and blood tests but neither shows accurately where the cancer is present in the bones.
Overall, the researchers concluded that the new methods were suitable for more myeloma patients than conventional tests.
"This is the first time we've been able to obtain information from all the bones in the entire body for myeloma in one scan without having to rely on individual bone X-rays," lead author Nandita deSouza, professor of London-based Institute of Cancer Research, said in a statement.
"It enables us to measure the involvement of individual bones and follow their response to treatment," said deSouza.
The researchers acknowledged that it's a small study, so their "next step will be to try out the technology in more patients" to determine if the new tool could be used to extend the life of myeloma patients.