Most biopsies following mammograms seem to reveal benign abnormalities and not cancer. However, women may perhaps not have to undergo the medical costs, stress and probable complications that come with such invasive biopsies forever. A University of Florida biomedical engineering researcher is believed to be developing an ‘optical biopsy’ that has the potential to determine whether growths are cancerous without ever penetrating into the skin.
Surgical biopsies were observed to have long been the gold standard for finding out whether growths are cancerous. Jiang claimed that however at least three out of four biopsies following mammograms conclude that detected abnormalities are benign and that no intervention was required.
The biopsies carried out with needles or surgery seem to signify added cost, recuperation and potential scarring or other complications which are all eventually unnecessary. He was believed to have devoted much of his career to an alternative ‘phase-contrast diffuse optical tomography,’ a screening technology that eradicates breast cancer not by cutting tools and laboratory tests but with light and computing power.
“At this stage, it is just too early for optical tomography to be a screening tool. But you can pretty much say that it is highly likely it can become a diagnostic tool, an adjunct to X-ray mammography,” says Huabei Jiang, the J. Crayton Pruitt Family professor of biomedical engineering, who has spent more than a decade developing the technique at UF and Clemson University.
Moreover, Jiang seems to have recently finished the third generation of his apparatus which is a bed with an array of fiber optic laser lights and detectors mounted within a hole where the patient places her breast. Supposedly, light from the harmless lasers enters the breast and scatters. The majority of them appear to get absorbed in the tissue, but some reach the detectors.
With adequate light hitting the detectors from enough different directions, there seems to be sufficient data for Jiang’s computer algorithms to create an image of the breast’s interior. This image is known to suggest either benign conditions or some of the telltale signs of cancer that may perhaps be entirely invisible to standard X-ray mammograms. For instance, a high density of blood vessels twisting around a likely tumor.
However the image may perhaps be just one indicator. In Jiang’s latest apparatus, undergoing tests at the Tampa-based Moffitt Cancer Center, fiber optic lights seem to span ten different wavelengths or colors.
Light with these colors could possibly change in predictable ways when they strike certain compounds, such as oxygenated hemoglobin, water or lipids. Just as light gathered from distant planets can reveal the composition of their atmospheres to astronomers, light collected from these collisions could indicate chemical evidence of cancer.
A third technique called as index refraction or phase contrast seems to provide information on cellular size and density, Allegedly, cellular size and density are both factors that play into determination of cancer in laboratory biopsies.
“What he’s done is introduce a whole new optical property that is pretty clever. It’s another tool, and he’s reported good success, and it did increase sensitivity,” says Steve Ponder, of the phase contrast element of Jiang’s research and director of advanced development for the Fort Lauderdale-based Imaging Diagnostic Systems Inc.
Over the past 10 years, Jiang along with his graduate students are believed to have tested their developing device on a total of about 200 patients. In a 2008 paper in Academic Radiology, he seems to have acquired 35 images from 33 patients and compared his findings with the results of the women’s traditional biopsies.
He concluded by saying that his technique has appropriately recognized biopsy which appears to have confirmed malignancies approximately 75 percent of the time, with the most accurate results from older patients, whose softer breasts make abnormalities more prominent.
Furthermore, he seems to have increased the accuracy rate to nearly 91 percent in a research involving 144 women. However, he is apparently still preparing that research for publication. More research and more patients are believed to be required.