There's lots of exciting new research in breast cancer reduction. First, a technique to produce 3D breast X-rays was developed to help researchers spot tumors they might otherwise have missed. Then there was the slightly more questionable claim by a British researcher who claimed to have developed cancer-detecting bras.
Now there's world of another more technical exciting advance in breast cancer detection. Researchers from Helsinki University Central Hospital, Turku University Central Hospital (Finland), the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Finland), the University Hospital of Grenoble (France), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Hamburg (Germany) and the Biomedical experimental station (beamline) at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) have developed a new 3D scanning technique that will allow significantly higher resolution images than traditional X-rays.
Traditional breast cancer checks with X-rays fail to detect 10 to 20 percent of breast cancer, due to the fact that some women, particular younger women have denser breast tissue. More accurate results are possible with X-ray computed tomography (CT) -- 3D X-ray scans, as discussed in the prior article here at DailyTech. The problem with CT is that its accuracy is dependent on the dose of radioactive tracer used, and the breast is extremely radiosensitive -- in other words the scan to fix breast cancer, could cause cancer. Thus CT scanning is limited to only use on tissue samples.
The researchers developed a new CT technique, which allows the researchers to view the breasts at unprecedented resolutions. Not only that, but it did it all with clinically acceptable doses. The new technique, dubbed Analyzer-Based X-ray Imaging (ABI) is expected to soon be able to be used in vivo (on a patient's living body). Its accuracy was verified by a preliminary in vitro (tissue sample) test on a woman at the ESRF.
The new technique only requires one quarter of the radioactive tracer as tradition CT, while delivering 7 times the spatial resolution. The woman in the trials had lobular carcinoma (a diffusely growing cancer) a special type of hard-to-see cancer that X-ray mammograms and ultrasonographs typically miss. With the advances scans, the researchers were able to zoom in on previously unrecognizable details.
Describes Jani Keyriläinen, main author of the paper, "We can clearly distinguish more microcalcifications -small deposits of minerals which can indicate the presence of a cancer- than with radiography methods and improve the definition of their shapes and margins. If we compare the images with X-ray mammograms and conventional CT images, we can confirm that this technique performs extremely well."
Alberto Bravin explains one problem of deploying an in vivo version in clinics stating, "The technique does not require sophisticated and expensive synchrotron radiation facilities. (However) it would not be viable to use X-ray tubes, as exposure times would be too long and this would be incompatible with clinical practice."
With researchers close to achieving commercial compact high-energy X-ray generators, such as the experimental tabletop X-FEL machine of the Munich Advanced Center for Photonics- MAP, the new technology may be able to be performed on living tissue. The development of high power X-rays is the key, as traditional ones take too long, and would still be hazardous.
Despite the disclaimer, Mr. Bravin says the new technique is much safer and more accurate than the previous CT method. He states, "With these machines (high power X-rays) it would definitely be possible to apply this technique to clinical practice and, in this way, contribute actively to a more efficient detection of breast cancer."
The research is reported in the most recent edition of the journal Radiology.