Point-of-Care Device Could Improve Thyroid Cancer Screening

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An international team of researchers developed a point-of-care device that could enable consistent and cost-effective screening for thyroid nodules. This novel device builds on the current ultrasound standard with a hybrid optics/ultrasound probe.

LUCA aims to develop a non-invasive low-cost device that will provide more specific results in thyroid nodule screening. ICFO.
he EU project called Laser and Ultrasound Co-analyzer for Thyroid Nodules (LUCA) aims to develop a new, noninvasive low-cost device that will provide more specific results in thyroid nodule screening and enable better diagnosis of thyroid cancer. Courtesy of LUCA Project.

The device’s optical module uses NIR time-resolve spectroscopy (TRS) and diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) to collect all the tissue data. The DCS laser subsystem features a fiber-coupled laser diode at 785 nm and custom-developed driving and cooling electronics. The custom design cuts the device cost by 10 to 15× that of a standard DCS laser system.

The optical module also collects data on chromophore concentrations, such as water and lipids, through TRS. The TRS subsystem, which features photomultipliers and time-correlated single photon counting, also cuts the cost to about five times lower than commercially available equivalents.

According to the team from the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), a research institute in Castelldefels, Spain, the high prevalence of thyroid nodules, at up to 76 percent of the population, means that even modest strategic improvements for characterizing lesions could have a major positive impact.

“In a pilot study, the mere fact that the ultrasound screening was carried out next to our measurements identified a malignant nodule in a healthy, young volunteer, and we have seen that many nodules that went all the way to a surgery turned out to be benign,” said Turgut Durduran, project coordinator and professor at ICFO.

Standard thyroid screening methods currently involve an initial ultrasound with suboptimal sensitivity and resolution. If the ultrasound detects an abnormal nodule, clinicians perform a fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) to test for malignancy. FNAB results are often nondiagnostic or false positives, and these inaccuracies can subject patients to unnecessary surgeries.

“The problem is in the poor specificity of the current approaches, which leads to a significant number of unnecessary biopsies and surgeries,” said Durduran.

This work is part of a Horizon 2020 European project titled Laser and Ultrasound Co-analyzer for Thyroid Nodules (LUCA). LUCA’s aim is to develop a technology that improves data acquisition for medical professionals by simultaneously probing chemical constitution, water concentration, structure and hemodynamics, such as blood flow and oxygenation, of tissue.

The researchers will present LUCA’s progress at the OSA Biophotonics Congress: Optics in the Life Sciences meeting, April 3-6, 2018, at The Diplomat Beach Resort, Hollywood, Fla.

Published: March 2018
Research & TechnologyeducationEuropeOpticsoptical toolPoint-of-carespectroscopyLasersoptics probeBiophotonicsmedicalcancerThyroid cancerthyroid cancer screeningBioScan

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