Breast Cancer Scans With Less Radiation
October 24, 2012

Researchers Working To Develop Breast Cancer Scanning Technology With Less Radiation

[ Watch the Video: Video of 3-D CT Scan Using EST ]

Connie K. Ho for — Your Universe Online

Researchers recently revealed that they have created a new way to process three-dimensional X-ray images, resulting in breast cancer scans that could have 25 times less radiation than two dimensional radiographies currently used in clinics.

With the development of this new technology, scientists believe that it will help combat the issue of high radiosensitivity of breast glandular tissue and synchrotron X-rays have already been utilized at the Medical Station of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). The new testing will allow CT scans to be a diagnostic tool used in conjunction with dual view mammography. The findings of the new method were recently published in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

"This new technique can open up the doors to the clinical use of computed tomography in the breast diagnosis, which would be a powerful tool to fight even better and earlier against breast cancer,” remarked Maximilian Reiser, Director of the Radiology Department of the Ludwig Maximilians University (LMU) in Munich, in a prepared statement.

Along with LMU, the ESRF and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) collaborated on the study.

"This result has been obtained thanks to the synergy of the expertise by researchers from very different disciplines. These high-quality X-ray CT images at high energies are the result of a 10-year effort at the ESRF,” noted Alberto Bravin, head of the ESRF medical research laboratory, in the statement.

The researchers attempted to move from the current method of “dual-view digital mammography,” which only gives two images of the breast tissue and could be one of the reasons as to why 10 to 20 percent of tumors are not detected during screening. They combined high energy X-rays, “phase contrast imaging,” and a new mathematical algorithm called “equally sloped tomography” (EST) to recreate CT Images from X-ray images. The team of investigators can produce X-rays of a human breast at various angles and at a higher resolution than a regular mammogram. In a blind test, five radiologists unaffiliated with the study chose the generated images that were superior in sharpness, contrast, and overall image quality as compared to the standard methods.

"Three-dimensional reconstructions, like the ones created in this research, are produced using sophisticated software and a powerful computer that can combine many images into one 3-D image, much like slices of an orange. By rethinking the mathematic equations of the software in use today we developed a more powerful algorithm that requires fewer slices to get a clearer 3-D picture,” Jianwei (John) Miao, a professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA, said in the statement.

As the technology is still in development, it will not be available to the public at this time.

"After dramatically reducing the dose delivered during the examination of the breast, our next objective is to develop this technique in the early visualization of other human diseases and to work towards its clinical implementation," commented Paola Coan, a professor of X-ray imaging at LMU, in the statement.

Researchers believe that the new technology could be important in helping patients detect breast cancer early on; early detection allows for better treatment and lower rates of breast cancer mortality.

"Many research groups are actively working to develop this device and once this hurdle is cleared, the new X-ray technique is poised to make a big impact on society,” explained Emmanuel Brun in the statement.