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Laser Imaging ‘Bowl’ Tests For Breast Cancer

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AUTUM C. PYLANT, NEWS EDITOR, [email protected]

Lasers, photonics and ultrasounds are not the typical instruments used during a mammogram. But they could aid doctors in diagnosing breast cancer painlessly, almost effortlessly, and while the patient waits.

European researchers from seven different countries are working to develop an imaging device made up of a comfortable hemispherical bowl lined with laser sources and ultrasound detectors. It has the potential to reduce the stages in diagnosing breast cancer to a single doctor’s appointment.

An artist’s rendition of the PAMMOTH device that uses a hemispherical bowl lined with optical fibers and ultrasound detectors for the early detection of breast cancer.

An artist’s rendition of the PAMMOTH device that uses a hemispherical bowl lined with optical fibers and ultrasound detectors for the early detection of breast cancer. Courtesy of the University of Twente.

Current diagnosis can be painful, and results often aren’t given to the patient for a number of weeks. Researchers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands hope to change that; the new breast imaging system they have designed seeks to remove the discomfort and uncertainty often involved in a diagnosis.

Project Coordinator Srirang Manohar told Photonics Media that the Photoacoustic Ultrasound Mammoscopy for Evaluating Screening-Detected Abnormalities in the Breast — PAMMOTH — project hopes to lead research into photoacoustic, real-time 3D imaging of suspicious lesions.

“We intend to make breast cancer diagnosis a one-stop-shop, while you wait,” said Manohar.

The device requires that a patient lies face down and places her breast into the reader — a hemispherical bowl lined with several ultrasound detectors and up to 100 optical fibers.

PAMMOTH works by sending short pulses of light into the breast toward the suspected lump or lesion. Energy absorbed in the breast tissue is converted into heat, leading to transient thermoelastic expansion, or a mechanical push signal from the suspected tumor. The bowl reader then detects and measures the push signals.

Multiple images of a suspect breast and tumor are then acquired from dozens of different angles before assembling the multiple shots into a single 3D image.

The bowl imager extracts information about blood oxygenation via multiwavelength illumination in the near-infrared wavelength region using PAMMOTH’s image reconstruction methods. By gathering key information about the hemoglobin and oxygenation levels in and around the suspected tumor, the user could diagnose how likely it would be for the tumor to spread or whether it was simply benign.

Researchers at University College London are working in close proximity with the University of Twente on the schematics of it all — the mathematics, the image reconstruction and the analysis of the signals — to determine how aggressive a tumor could be.

“A prime focus of the PAMMOTH project is to develop an imager and data analysis to be able to intervene at a very early stage. We need to be able to say whether a suspect lesion is good or bad,” said Manohar. “This technique would have a substantial impact upon the money spent on unnecessary biopsies, as well as remove the trauma involved in a diagnosis for women around the world.”

According to research published in Health Affairs, $4 billion is spent every year in the U.S. on false-positive mammograms and breast cancer over-diagnosis among women ages 40 to 59.

Manohar and the PAMMOTH team hope to have a prototype ready in the next three years, and the one-stop-shop for breast cancer diagnosis in doctors’ offices by 2021.

Nov/Dec 2017
Research & TechnologyeducationBiophotonicsfiber opticsimaginglasersultrasoundopticspulsed laserscancerbreast cancermedicalmedicineAutum PylantPAMMOTHSrirang Manohar3D imaging Courtesy of the University of TwenteUniversity College LondonPhotonics21Post Scripts

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