Professor Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen - It is quite unique that we get an insight into the biochemical processes in the body with the MR-hyperpolarization technology, says professor Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen (photo: Ole Hein Pedersen)

Ground-breaking hyperpolarization magnetic resonance imaging at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark reveals new details about cancer cells.
Today, doctors use different imaging technologies – CT, PET, SPECT/PT, MR – to obtain the best knowledge of the patient’s disease. In the future the so-called hyperpolarization MR spectroscopy will become an effective way of increasing knowledge of what goes on in a body with cancer. 

The new advanced MR-hyperpolarization is a further development of the traditional magnetic resonance scanning technology. It is now possible to register metabolic changes in the tissue with a more than 10,000 times higher sensitivity than in the current MR imaging. In this way doctors obtain more precise knowledge of biochemical processes in a tumour or in metastases. 

- Hyperpolarization can detect where the degree of malignancy regional in a tumour is particularly high and in this way concentrate radiation therapy to those particular areas. The method will therefore be an important tool in the future particle therapy, which provides a very focused radiation, says professor Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen.

The Achilles heel in cancer metabolism must be found

Professor Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen has together with his colleagues just documented that the method does not only provide a high signal intensity; it is actually so high that you can follow metabolic changes while they happen: 

- It is quite unique that we get an insight into the biochemical processes in the body in this way. These processes can be traced in many organs and we also believe and hope that the method will be useful to detect the ”metabolic Achilles heel” of tumour cells, says Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen; and he adds: 

- Patient tumours have different metabolic patterns; detailed knowledge of the metabolic processes in a patient’s tumour cells will make it possible to follow the effect of a treatment.

High expectations

Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen is heading the MR Centre at Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University; these institutions are leading in Europe within the hyperpolarization technology. Right now there are five hyperpolarization scanners up running in Europe. One of these is placed at Aarhus University Hospital. Aarhus University has teamed up with the other hyperpolarization centres at the universities in Oxford, Cambridge and in Zürich. 

- There is an enormous interest in this new technology among researchers and clinicians because the higher sensitivity can be used in a number of diseases. We have already initiated different research projects in breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and within the field of diabetes where the potential of the hyperpolarization technology is huge, says Hans Stødkilde-Jørgensen. 

At first the facilities will be used for research in how to apply the technology in the best way. The first patients are expected to be examined in the new scanner already in 2015. 

Facts about hyperpolarization MR technology:

The technology is based on magnetic resonance where the signal is considerably enhanced.

  • It is developed by a Danish researcher, professor Jan Henrik Ardenkjær-Larsen from Technical University of Denmark.
  • The first patients are expected to be examined at Aarhus University Hospital in 2015.