There is a lot more information than an image in every medical scan… but most of the time that information is not harnessed.
Great progress are being made now both in imaging hardware and image processing to extract that information. The RSNA, the Radiological Society of North America, is leading the way with the QIBA initiative, or Quantitative Imaging Biomarkers Alliance, in which key researchers and scientists not only exploring the boundaries but also setting up guidelines to help others. Look at features such as comparison of images to baseline to extract severity, degree or changes in disease status. In cancer in particular, as stated by Dr. Macura (Johns Hopkins), quantitative imaging has the potential to bring out the value in biomarkers — as measurable characteristics used to indicate a biological state and where imaging can contribute quantifiable data, for example, as surrogate end-points to evaluate treatment response, and especially to detect early failure of potentially toxic treatments or to predict patient outcome. The FDA has well recognized the impact that biomarkers could have (J. Woodcock, “Biomarkers: Physiological & Laboratory Markers of Drug Effect”, 2011).
Quantitative Imaging Accelerates Clinical Research, http://rsna.org/NewsDetail.aspx?id=12002
Janet Woodcock: http://www.cc.nih.gov/training/training/principles/slides/Biomarkers-2010-2011-3slides.pdf