Saturday, March 24, 2018

Improvements in optical mammography to advance breast cancer diagnostics

Researchers from Politecnico di Milano, Italy report improvements in the design of optical mammography used in diagnosis and monitoring of breast cancer.  They report increase sensitivity by a thousandfold.This research is presented at Biomedical Optics meeting 2018.

Schematic diagram of new and improved optical mammography device.
Credit: Edoardo Ferocino
Optical mammography uses infrared light and is used in conjunction with x-rays. It is optimal in cases needing repeated imaging to prevent high amounts of radiation associated with the regular procedure. Optical mammography can be used to measure blood volume, oxygenation, lipid, water and collagen content for a suspicious area identified through standard X-ray imaging. However, there are limitations to using optical mammography, which includes poor spatial resolution.

New improvements include using eight channel silicon photomultipliers (SiPMs) and multichannel time-to-digital converter instead of two photomultiplier tubes (PMTs) in existing optical mammography instruments. These changes eliminate the pre-scan step that was required to avoid damage to the photomultiplier tubes. In addition to increased sensitivity, the new instrument is both more robust and cheaper.

The investigators in Milan are working with a larger consortium on a project known as SOLUS, "Smart Optical and Ultrasound Diagnostics of Breast Cancer." This project is funded by the European Union through the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Program and aims to combine optical imaging methods with ultrasound to improve specificity in the diagnosis of breast cancer.

Adapted from press release by the Optical Society.

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