Sunny Queensland has a high rate of skin cancer, with melanoma as the second most common cancer in Queenslanders. In the area of the head and neck, this can lead to invasion of facial nerves and spread via the base of the skull to reach the brain stem. The extent of the progression, the so-called perineural spread, defines the therapeutic approach, informing the extent of required resection, and the complexity and duration of the surgical procedure. Imaging the extent of nerve involvement is critical to guiding treatment decisions and MRI neurography is the accepted imaging modality of choice.
Standard MRI may underestimate disease extent, but a current clinical trial explores the improved resolution and sensitivity using the 7 Tesla ultra-high field MRI scanner at the Centre for Advance Imaging at UQ. This improves visualisation of cranial nerves (see Figure and insert with zoomed nerve fibres) and potentially improves the definition of the perineural spread. The clinical trial is led by Dr. Sommerville from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD, and involves a Brisbane-based multidisciplinary team of head and neck surgeons, radiologists and scientists in the UHF MR Research team (Head: Dr. Barth, NIF Fellows Dr. Bollmann and Dr. Ali) at the UQ Centre for Advanced Imaging. The first patient scan has been performed, with 20 patients more to follow after a successful funding application sponsored by the 2018 round of the RBWH Diamond Care Grants.
If you would like to know more about skin cancer, please check the Cancer Council website and speak to your GP.
This story was contributed by the University of Queensland. For further information, contact Dr Tonima Ali.