News | Breast Imaging | April 02, 2018

Diagnosing Breast Cancer Using Red Light

New design improves sensitivity of optical mammography instruments 1,000-fold

Diagnosing Breast Cancer Using Red Light

Schematic diagram for OM instrument: Seven pulsed lasers sequentially illuminate the compressed breast; transmitted light is detected by the 8-channel SiPM probe and the TDC acquires the signal. Credit: Edoardo Ferocino

April 2, 2018 — Optical mammography (OM), which uses harmless red or infrared light, has been developed for use in conjunction with X-rays for diagnosis or monitoring in cases demanding repeated imaging where high amounts of ionizing radiation should be avoided. At the OSA Biophotonics Congress: Biomedical Optics meeting, held April 3-6 in Hollywood, Fla., researchers from Milan, Italy, will report an advance in instrument development that increases the sensitivity of OM by as much as 1,000-fold.

In 2017, an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in women and 2,470 cases were diagnosed in men1. Many of these diagnoses are made using X-ray mammography. Although standard and widely used, X-ray imaging for breast cancer suffers from both low sensitivity (50-75 percent) and the use of ionizing radiation that cannot be considered completely safe.

The newly-developed instrument replaces two photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) of existing instruments with an eight-channel probe involving silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) and a multichannel time-to-digital converter. These changes eliminate a pre-scan step that was required to avoid damage to the PMTs. In addition to increased sensitivity, the new instrument is both more robust and cheaper.

While X-ray mammography is widely used and is still the recommended method for routine screenings, its use is limited by the patient’s age, weight or body mass index, the breast tissue itself, whether or not hormone replacement therapy is being used and other issues. In addition, its accuracy — particularly when used in younger women — has been called into question. Other breast imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound, are sometimes suggested, but neither is an effective replacement for X-ray mammography.

Optical imaging methods, on the other hand, have attracted increasing interest for breast cancer diagnosis since both visible and infrared light are highly sensitive to tissue composition. Tumors are characterized by a high volume of blood due to the increased vascularization that occurs as tumors grow. OM can be used to measure blood volume, oxygenation, lipid, water and collagen content for a suspicious area identified through standard X-ray imaging. Collagen measurements are particularly important since this species is known to be involved in the onset and progression of breast cancer.

One major disadvantage to OM imaging is the poor spatial resolution that has been achieved to date. Breast cancer tumors larger than 1 centimeter are very dangerous and more likely to lead to death, so a successful screening technique must be able to resolve smaller lesions. This remains a problem with OM imaging as a stand-alone technique, but combining OM with other imaging methods shows some promise.

A possible advantage to OM, however, is that only gentle pressure need be applied to the breast tissue, in stark contrast to the standard technique for X-ray imaging. In fact, breast compression tends to reduce blood volume in the tissue, which would interfere with the OM image, so some three-dimensional OM detectors being developed use no compression at all, but rather surround the breast tissue with rings of light sources and detectors.

While poor spatial resolution of OM methods remains a challenge, the method does show promise for use in pre-surgical chemotherapy. As Edoardo Ferocino, Politecnico di Milano, Italy, co-author of the work explained, “This technique is able to provide information on the outcome of chemotherapy just weeks after beginning treatment, or possibly even sooner.” Ferocino’s group is planning clinical studies to explore the use of OM to monitor and predict the outcome of chemotherapy.

The investigators in Milan are working with a larger consortium on a project known as SOLUS, “Smart Optical and Ultrasound Diagnostics of Breast Cancer.” This project is funded by the European Union through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program and aims to combine optical imaging methods with ultrasound to improve specificity in the diagnosis of breast cancer.

For more information: www.osa.org

[1] American Cancer Society. Breast Cancer Facts & Figures 2017-2018. Retrieved from Cancer.org.

Related Content

Joseph J. Cappello Named Executive Director of Are You Dense Nonprofits
News | Breast Density | February 20, 2019
The boards of Are You Dense Inc. and Are You Dense Advocacy Inc., founded by the late Nancy M. Cappello, Ph.D.,...
Congress Directs FDA to Establish Federal Breast Density Inform Standard
News | Breast Density | February 19, 2019 | Jeff Zagoudis, Associate Editor
As part of a federal spending bill passed late Friday, Congress directed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to...
Videos | Radiation Therapy | February 15, 2019
ITN Associate Editor Jeff Zagoudis speaks with Vinai Gondi, M.D., director of research and CNS neuro-oncology at the
Densitas Enters Partnership Agreement With TeleMammography Specialists
News | Breast Density | February 14, 2019
Breast imaging analytics company Densitas Inc. announced a new collaboration partnership with TeleMammography...
Hologic Launches Unifi Analytics Business Intelligence Tool
Technology | Analytics Software | February 12, 2019
Hologic Inc. announced the U.S. launch of Unifi Analytics, a business intelligence tool that allows healthcare...
Micro-Ultrasound and Artificial Intelligence Combining to Detect Prostate Cancer
News | Prostate Cancer | February 12, 2019
Cambridge Consultants has partnered with Exact Imaging, makers of the ExactVu micro-ultrasound platform, as the two...
Mount Sinai's Digital 3-D Mammography Van Rolls Into New York City
News | Mammography | February 11, 2019
Mount Sinai Hospital recently launched the Mount Sinai Mobile Mammography Program (MMP), bringing essential breast...
breast density cancer awareness
News | Breast Density | February 08, 2019
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed breast density inform bill, ...
Fujifilm Launches Latest Synapse 3D Version at HIMSS 2019

The new Intravoxel Incoherent Motion (IVIM) MR application in Synapse 3D

Technology | Advanced Visualization | February 08, 2019
Fujifilm Medical Systems U.S.A. will debut the latest version of its Synapse 3D solution at the Healthcare Information...
Oxford University Hospitals Employs Barco Synergi for Multi-disciplinary Cancer Conferences
News | Oncology Diagnostics | February 06, 2019
Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) is trialing clinical collaboration technology from Barco for its Multi-disciplinary...