New Imaging Technique May Reduce Repeat Breast Cancer Surgeries


A new imaging technique may reduce the need for repeat surgery following lumpectomies.

The innovative technology, called photoacoustic microscopy, may help surgeons excising breast cancer lumps determine whether they have removed the entire tumor.

Lumpectomies are performed to remove cancerous tumors without damaging healthy breast tissue. If post-surgical lab tests reveal cancer cells on the surface of the removed tissue, it means a portion of the tumor is still inside the patient. After waiting up to 14 days for lab results, 20 to 60 percent of lumpectomy patients are told they need a second surgery to remove what’s left of the tumor.

Photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) could reduce the incidence of follow-up lumpectomy surgeries. Developed by Caltech’s Lihong Wang and colleagues at the Optical Imaging Laboratory, PAM excites tissue samples with a low-energy laser, causing it to vibrate. Images of the vibrating tissue cells reveal the size of their nuclei, and cell density.

Cancerous tissue has more densely packed cells with larger nuclei than normal tissue, making it possible to determine whether there are cancer cells on the surface of surgically removed tissue. Currently, PAM analyzes tissue samples in about three hours, but Wang says that time could be reduced to ten minutes using faster laser pulse repetition, and parallel imaging.

Though Wang’s research has focused on breast cancer tumors, PAM can potentially analyze excised tumors from any type of cancer. “Because the device never directly touches a patient, there will be fewer regulatory hurdles to overcome before gaining FDA approval for use by surgeons,” said Wang. “Potentially, we could make this tool available to surgeons within several years.”

Wang conducted the PAM research at the Optical Imaging Laboratory, at Washington University in St. Louis. The work was reported in the journal Science Advances in May, 2017. Last January, Wang relocated to Caltech's Andrew and Peggy Cherng Department of Medical Engineering.

Source: CalTech
Photo credit: kuldeep singh


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