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Researchers Reveal New Cancer Imaging Technology

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Researchers Reveal New Cancer Imaging Technology

A research team from the URMC (University of Rochester Medical Center), in the United States have revealed a new cancer imaging technique. Their new discovery uses a combination of ultrasound and laser technology in order to be highly sensible in detecting prostate cancer. Researchers say that in the near future, their new invention could be improved in order to be capable of detecting other types of cancer, such as thyroid, breast, kidney, liver and even skin cancer.

Their discovery was named Multispectral Photoacoustic Imaging (MSPI). The creators of the new imaging technology are professor Vikram Dogra, from the Imaging Sciences Department, and professor Naval Rao, from the Center for Imaging Technology, both being departments of URMC.

There are several diagnosis techniques capable of detecting prostate cancer. Physicians from all around the world currently use techniques such as digital rectal examination, transrectal ultrasound and the monitoring of PSA levels. The technique considered to be the current gold standard for the diagnosis of prostate cancer is the prostate biopsy. However, a prostate biopsy is an invasive technique capable of detecting prostate cancer only in 70% of the cases, while also being uncomfortable and having several side effects.

Professor Dogra saw the need for a new, non-invasive imaging technique that would be more effective than a prostate biopsy. Dogra and his research team started experimenting with a hybrid technology that brings together ultrasounds and laser technology. The new technology uses a nanosecond-long burst of laser targeted at the suspected cancer tissue. This procedure heats the tissue, allowing the heat waves to be detected through ultrasound. Further, the images acquired are used to recreate a digital image of the suspected tissue, allowing scientists to analyze the differences in light absorption caused by the different wave lengths. Researchers used an acoustic lens in order to complete their new invention. An acoustic lens is more cost effective than the already available electronic focus technology.

The new system allows scientists to detect different levels of water, lipids and hemoglobin. These 3 compounds each respond to different wave lengths sent from the laser unit. If there is fluctuation in the levels of these 3 compounds, the status of the tumor can be assessed. The compound that raises the biggest interest is hemoglobin. This is due to the fact that hemoglobin is responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues. An increase in the levels of deoxyhemoglobin (the form of hemoglobin that doesn’t contain oxygen) shows a higher probability that the tissue is malignant.

The first findings of the research team were revealed earlier this year, during a conference held by the American Roentgen Ray Society. According to the study from then, the new technology was capable of discovering 12 of the 16 cancerous prostates and 25 of the  26 healthy prostates. This translates to a success rate of 81%, respectively 96%.

Dogra and his research team are currently trying to create a prototype version of their new imaging technique. They believe that clinical trials will start in less than two years from now. Furthermore, they expect the new system to be significantly less expensive than biopsies, both in terms of cost per test and equipment cost.