This technique could be used in the next years in hospitals. It may help doctors to detect tumours with greater precision than is possible using current X-ray mammography.
Breast cancer is the most frequent form of cancer affecting women in industrialized countries, according to the World Health Organization. It is widely recognized that the early detection of breast cancer is directly linked to a successful treatment of the disease.
Although X-ray mammography is currently the most widely used tool in diagnostic radiology, it fails to identify about 10 to 20% of palpable breast cancers. This is because some breasts, especially in young women, are very dense. Therefore, on mammograms, glandular tissues can mask cancer lesions.
Better results are obtained using X-ray computed tomography (CT). CT imaging could produce accurate 3D images of the entire breast, improving the detection of early diseases in dense breasts. However, its use in breast imaging is limited by the radiation dose delivered to a radiosensitive organ such as the breast.
A new CT technique has allowed scientists to overcome this problem. The teams from the 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 ESRF have managed to visualize breast cancer with an unprecedented contrast resolution and with clinically compatible doses.
The researchers, including physicists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists, used the technique, called Analyzer-Based X-ray Imaging (ABI), on an in vitro specimen at the ESRF, using a radiation dose similar to that of a mammography examination. The dose corresponded to a quarter of that required for imaging the same sample with conventional CT scanner, and the spatial resolution of the ABI images was seven times better.
For the experiment, researchers chose a particularly challenging specimen: a breast invaded by a lobular carcinoma (a diffusely growing cancer), the second most common form of breast cancer, which is also very difficult to visualize in clinical mammography. In this kind of sample, the determination of the extension of the cancer frequently fails in X-ray mammograms and ultrasonographs of the breast.
The results showed that high-spatial-resolution ABI-CT makes visible small-size and low-contrast anatomic details that could otherwise only be seen by the microscopic study of an extracted sample of the breast tissue (histopathology).
“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”, explains Jani Keyriläinen, main author of the paper. “If we compare the images with X-ray mammograms and conventional CT images, we can confirm that this technique performs extremely well”, he adds.
Despite having studied only in vitro samples, the team is very optimistic that the technique will be applied in the future in clinics. “The technique does not require sophisticated and expensive synchrotron radiation facilities”, explains Alberto Bravin, scientist in charge of the biomedical beamline at the ESRF. 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”.
Scientists hope that current worldwide development of compact, highly intense X-ray sources will enable the clinical use of this technique. The Biomedical beamline at the ESRF is directly involved in one of these projects, with the role of developing synchrotron techniques for clinical application on compact sources (e.g. the tabletop X-FEL machine of the Munich Advanced Center for Photonics- MAP).
Once the technique has been confirmed and tabletop synchrotrons are on the market, the progression could be very straightforward. “With these machines it would definitely be possible to apply this technique to clinical practice”, explains Bravin, “and, in this way, contribute actively to a more efficient detection of breast cancer”, he concludes.
3-D visualization of the pancreas -- new tool in diabetes research
15.03.2017 | Umea University
New PET radiotracer identifies inflammation in life-threatening atherosclerosis
02.03.2017 | Society of Nuclear Medicine
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences