The Road to Early Detection: Mobile MRI Unit Leaving Brain Tumor Deaths Trailing Behind

OncologyLive, April 2007, Volume 8, Issue 4

On November 29, 2006, The Brain Tumor Foundation(BTF) launched The Road to Early Detection, an unprecedented nationwide campaign aimed at broadening public awareness about brain tumors ...

On November 29, 2006, Th e Brain Tumor Foundation (BTF) launched The Road to Early Detection, an unprecedented

nationwide campaign aimed at broadening public awareness about brain tumors and the urgent need for early detection through brain scans.

Dr. Patrick J. Kelly, MD, FACS, Joseph Ransohoff Professor and Chairman of Neurosurgery, NYU Medical Center, Founder

and President of Th e Brain Tumor Foundation (BTF), is a pioneer of The Road to Early Detection campaign, which provides

free MRI brain scans for fi ve boroughs of NYC—particularly in under-served communities—and will eventually do so for the entire US.

“Regrettably,” says Dr. Kelly, “by the time brain tumors become symptomatic, most are incurable. With our best modern treatments, all we can off er is a small gift of time. I am firmly convinced that early detection is the best insurance that treatment will be effective and that more lives will be saved.”

With the knowledge that MRI brain scans are the best and only way to detect a brain tumor—or other brain abnormalities—Dr.

Kelly and others remarked, “We have grown accustomed to routinely checking for breast, colon, prostate, and other cancers; why not brain tumors? By finding and treating a brain tumor early in its development, thousands of lives may be saved.” Sponsored by a $1.5 million grant from the New York City Council, BTF has purchased the fi rst Mobile MRI Unit, manufactured by GE, in an eff ort to provide free brain scans to everyone throughout New York City by bringing the Unit to where they work, study, or live. And, in order to put brain tumors on the national medical agenda, the Foundation has linked up with a prestigious medical research institution where the brain scan data will be analyzed and presented at hearings in city, state, and national arenas, including the US Congress.

How Can an MRI Brain Scan Help in the Battle Against Brain Tumors?

The most obvious advantage of an MRI is that, unlike other types of scans, it emits no radiation. MRIs also get better spatial

resolution than CT or PET scans and are safe, non-invasive, and completely painless. The BTF’s Mobile MRI Unit is housed in a 50-foot trailer and uses today’s most advanced MR technology. The MR system itself (1.5T Signa EXCITE II EchoSpeed+ 4 Channel Vector 200 Mobile MR System) is a high-performance, whole-body MR system that features an actively shielded magnet, detachable patient table, actively shielded high-performance gradients, phased array digital RF electronics, and the Linux operating system. EXCITE II ScanTools 11.0 software is used to deliver a full range of pulse sequences and analysis for whole-body imaging and includes the spin echo, fast spin echo, fast gradient echo, time-of-flight, phase contrast, and echo planar pulse sequences. The MR unit also has a six-element, multi-station coil array that delivers high SNR and spatial resolution over the full range of spine, soft-tissue neck, and carotid studies.

The Mobile MRI has a staff of medical experts and a support staff who will work with patients needing referrals to the appropriate physicians. BTF will be working with these professionals, as well as gathering brain scan data to be analyzed for national health and research institutions on the demographics and epidemiology of brain tumors.

Mobile MRI Unit Can Save Lives

At the 2004 and 2005 Brain Tumor Awareness Day conventions, 93 people signed up for a brain scan. Six were diagnosed with brain tumors, and eighteen others were diagnosed with other brain abnormalities. These results corroborate recent studies projecting that nearly one million people in the US are walking around with a brain tumor but are undiagnosed, with 25,000 in NYC alone.

Although no cures exist yet, the impact of brain tumors can be vastly reduced with such innovations as the Mobile MRI Unit. By detecting and treating brain tumors early on, thousands of New Yorkers will be saved from almost certain death and human

suffering, as well as signifi cant fi nances, due to job loss, health insurance, hospitalizations, and costly treatments. With The Road to Early Detection campaign, we are steering toward a future in which the pain and anguish suffered by cancer patients and their loved ones may exist no longer, and brain tumors can be completely eradicated. For more on the campaign.

Michael Schreiber is the chairman of Th e Road to Early Detection campaign.