MRI Contrast Agent Locates and Distinguishes Aggressive From Slow-Growing Breast Cancer

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University tested a new MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) contrast agent which precisely locates breast cancer in its early stages and also differentiates between aggressive and slow-growing breast cancers. The contrast agent is a gadolinium-based agent which is more efficient and safer than the regular traditional agents. The dosage of this contrast agent required is very less almost 20-times smaller and easily flushed out of the body with no remnants in the tissues of the mouse models. The study of this research was published in the journal Nature Communications.


This contrast agent is made by combining commercially available tri-gadolinium nitride metallofullerene (Gd3N@C80) and a peptide labeled ZD2 (developed in Zheng-Rong Lu’s lab). The gadolinium ions are trapped in a hollow fullerene molecule (appears like a soccer ball) and the peptide – ZD2 is attached to the surface of this soccer ball-like structure. This peptide specifically targets the extradomain-B fibronectin (EDB-FN) of the cancer protein. Therefore this EDB-FN is highly expressed in the matrix around the cancerous cells which makes the detection very easier.

The testing is done on 6 mouse models and breast cancer was detected in all the cases through MRI. Further investigation going in the Lu’s lab is to reduce the production cost of the contrasting agent and make it attractive for clinical use.

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