The Maine Medical Center Cancer Institute offers a complete range of state-of-the-art resources such as diagnostic imaging and pathology for diagnosing and staging cancer:
MMC has invested in the full range of leading-edge diagnostic imaging modalities, including combined anatomic and metabolic imaging, to aid in cancer detection and to monitor treatment effectiveness. Our capabilities include:
- Three magnetic resonance imaging scanners
- Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
- Four 64-slice computed tomography scanners
- PET/CT (integrated positron emission tomography and CT)
- Digital mammography
In addition, our extensive Picture Archiving and Communications System serves as a regional resource that enables rapid image sharing and interpretation, helping to speed diagnosis.
Pathology plays a critical role in cancer diagnosis and staging (determining the extent of cancer within the body), which helps determine a patient's treatment options. MMC has a team of 18 pathologists - the largest group of its kind in Maine - who are highly skilled and experienced in the diagnosis and evaluation of cancer pathology.
MMC's board-certified pathologists are subspecialty trained in specific types of cancer. This means that they have undergone additional training in such areas as gastrointestinal pathology, genitourinary pathology, gynecological pathology, hematopathology, neuropathology and dermatopathology - giving patients diagnosed with cancer and the doctors who treat them an exceptional depth of specialized expertise to help guide treatment decisions.
This expertise is brought to bear at MMC's multidisciplinary tumor board conferences, where groups of specialists meet regularly to discuss how to best manage the care of individuals who have a specific type of cancer. MMC's pathologists attend the tumor board meetings that correspond to their specialty area, working closely with medical and radiation oncologists, surgeons, registered nurses, social workers and other clinicians on the optimal plan of care for each patient.
MMC's pathologists also are at the forefront of molecular genetics, a revolutionary advance in the way we understand disease, especially cancer. In fact, MMC is home to the largest and most extensive molecular diagnostics laboratory in Maine. Using cytogenetics, a marriage of traditional pathology techniques such as tissue culture and microscopy with specialized molecular genetics techniques, we can obtain information about an individual cell's biology, particularly any genetic alterations. Some genetic alterations are markers (indicators) of a specific cancer, and can provide insight about prognosis (how a patient will respond to treatment). This, in turn, helps doctors make highly targeted treatment recommendations that can be tailored to the individual patient's type of tumor, optimizing patient outcomes.
Among the state-of-the-art diagnostic molecular genetics tests available at MMC are:
- Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) determines the positions of particular genes and detects mutations in chromosomes for a number of different types of cancer
- Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a method of making many copies of particular DNA sequences that are relevant to the diagnosis
- Real-time PCR or quantitative PCR is a method of measuring how many copies of a particular DNA sequence are present
- Reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a method of making many copies of a specific RNA sequence
- Southern blot hybridization detects specific DNA fragments
- Western blot hybridization identifies and analyzes proteins or peptides