MRI Imaging Links Saturated Fat In Breasts with Aggressive Breast Cancer Interview with:
Sungheon G. Kim, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Radiology
NYU Langone and
Researcher at the Center for Advanced Imaging, Innovation, and Research What is the background for this study?

Dr. Kim: The role of fat in breast cancer development and growth has been studied extensively using body mass index (BMI), a measure of whole body fatness, and dietary fat intake in a number of epidemiological studies. However, there is a paucity of studies to assess the role of breast fat itself in breast cancer due to lack of a non-invasive and fast measurement method. Since breast fibroglandular cells are surrounded by breast fat cells, the characteristics of breast fat may have a stronger relationship with breast cancer development and growth than BMI and/or dietary fat. However, it is not trivial to study the role of breast fat, mainly due to the lack of a non-invasive and fast measurement method sensitive enough to important features of breast fat, such as types of fat. What are the main findings?

Dr. Kim:: In this study, we have developed a rapid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) method (scan time < 5 min) to measure fatty acid types during clinical breast MRI exams. This method can provide the percentages of saturated fats and unsaturated fats in the breast fat without performing tissue biopsy. Our study found that the postmenopausal women with aggressive breast cancer, known as invasive ductal carcinoma, have a significantly higher percentage of saturated fat in their breast than the postmenopausal women with only benign lesions. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The MRI spectroscopic imaging method developed in this study provides direct measure of the level of saturated fat in the vicinity of breast cells, which can be associated with cancer development and growth. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Kim: More studies need to be conducted with a large population of women, including ones at low-risk for breast cancer. The underlying mechanism of how saturated fatty acids is associated with breast cancer is poorly understood. Our fast in vivo imaging method can be used to address this important question about the role of fat in breast cancer. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Kim: This is a proof-of-concept study to demonstrate that our MR spectroscopic imaging method can be used to measure breast fatty acid composition during clinical breast MRI exam. It is too early to make any recommendation based on the result from our initial experience. Further study is warranted to investigate how the information about fatty acid composition can be used for clinical management of breast cancer patients. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Melanie Freed, PhD , Pippa Storey, PhD , Alana Amarosa Lewin, MD , James Babb, PhD , Melanie Moccaldi, RT , Linda Moy, MD , Sungheon G. Kim, PhD. Evaluation of Breast Lipid Composition in Patients with Benign Tissue and Cancer by Using Multiple Gradient-Echo MR Imaging. Radiology, June 2016

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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