New, better tool to diagnose breast cancer

Another Raman effect

New, better tool to diagnose breast cancer

Exploiting a technology discovered by Nobel laureate C V Raman almost a century back, Indo-US scientists have now come out with a new and better diagnostic tool for breast cancer – a common disease among women.

Cancers missed out by conventional biopsies, can be found by the new technology that reduces the chances of repeat biopsy. In India, one in every 28 women develop breast cancer during her lifetime, according to Mumbai-based Tata Memorial Hospital that specialises on cancer.

The risk is higher in urban areas (1 in 22) compared to rural India (1 in 60). The average age of the high risk group in India is 43-46 years unlike in the west where women aged 53-57 years are more prone to breast cancer.

Early detection being the key to successfully manage and treat breast cancer, a team including four scientists of Indian origin at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Case Western Reserve University in the USA set out to explore the usefulness of Raman spectroscopy as a clinical tool to detect breast cancer.

The team focused on micro-calcifications, which are tiny bits of calcium present within soft breast tissues. They appear as white dots on the mammogram, a common tool to diagnose breast cancer using X-ray.

There are two types of micro-calcifications. One (type I) is benign but the second one (type II) can be both benign and malignant.

The problem is even with guidance, the existing core needle biopsy can not retrieve these calcium dots in 15-25 per cent cases, leading to false-negative biopsies.“One in every five cases, micro-calcifications are missed out,” MIT scientist and one of the team members Narahara Chari Dingari told Deccan Herald. That’s where scientists decided to use spectroscopic methods discovered by C V Raman in the first two decades of the twentieth century.

They created algorithms for use of Raman spectroscopy as an effective clinical tool to simultaneously determine micro-calcification status and diagnose the underlying breast lesion in real time. “The technology has an overall accuracy of 82 per cent for specific diagnosis. It is able to classify ductal carcinoma cases, the most common type of breast cancer associated with microcalcification,” the researchers reported in May 31 issue of Cancer Research.

“Our results show, for the very first time, that spectroscopy can significantly increase the likelihood of an adequate diagnostic biopsy at the first attempt. This work paves the path for clinical translation of spectroscopy in cancer diagnostics, especially as a powerful biopsy guidance tool in the near future,” Dingari said.

Asked to comment on the new technology, Maqsood Siddiqi, former director of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Kolkata said the research opens up a new way of detecting breast cancers early as it can distinguish between various types of breast cancer. “But it is still preliminary research and further work is needed,” said Siddiqi, who is not connected with the research.

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