Breast cancer prognosis goes high tech

April 18, 2011
Mauro Tambasco, Ph.D., analyzes breast tissue samples on his computer. Credit: Bruce Perrault

Cancer researchers at the University of Calgary are investigating a new tool to use for the prognosis of breast cancer in patients. This new digital tool will help give patients a more accurate assessment of how abnormal and aggressive their cancer is and help doctors recommend the best treatment options.

Currently, a useful factor for deciding the best treatment strategy for early-stage breast cancer is tumour grade, a score assigned by a pathologist based on how abnormal from a patient tissue sample look under the microscope. However, tumour grade is somewhat subjective and can vary between pathologists. Hence, there is a need for more objective methods to assess cancer tissue, which could improve risk assessment and therapeutic decisions.

Using a mathematical computer program developed at the U of C , Mauro Tamabsco, PhD, and his team used fractal dimension analysis to quantitatively assess the degree of abnormality and aggressiveness of breast obtained through biopsy. Fractal analysis of images of specimens provides a numeric description of tumour growth patterns as a continuous number between 1 and 2. This number, the fractal dimension, is an objective and reproducible measure of the complexity of the tissue architecture of the biopsy specimen. The higher the number, the more abnormal the tissue is.

According to the team's published study, this novel method of analysis is more accurate and objective than pathological grade. "This new technology is not meant to replace pathologists, but is just a new digital tool for them to use" says Tambasco, a medical physicist at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine and the Tom Baker Cancer Center.

Researchers say they will continue to study this new digital method and hope in the next few years that it could become another tool used in the clinical setting.

The retrospective study analysed tissue specimens from 379 patients and the findings were published in the January 2011 edition of the Journal of Translational Medicine.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Study prompts new ideas on cancers' origins

December 16, 2017
Rapidly dividing, yet aberrant stem cells are a major source of cancer. But a new study suggests that mature cells also play a key role in initiating cancer—a finding that could upend the way scientists think about the ...

What does hair loss have to teach us about cancer metastasis?

December 15, 2017
Understanding how cancer cells are able to metastasize—migrate from the primary tumor to distant sites in the body—and developing therapies to inhibit this process are the focus of many laboratories around the country. ...

Cancer immunotherapy may work better in patients with specific genes

December 15, 2017
Cancer cells arise when DNA is mutated, and these cells should be recognized as "foreign" by the immune system. However, cancer cells have found ways to evade detection by the immune system.

Scientists pinpoint gene to blame for poorer survival rate in early-onset breast cancer patients

December 15, 2017
A new study led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found that inherited variation in a particular gene may be to blame for the lower survival rate of patients diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer.

Scientists unlock structure of mTOR, a key cancer cell signaling protein

December 14, 2017
Researchers in the Sloan Kettering Institute have solved the structure of an important signaling molecule in cancer cells. They used a new technology called cryo-EM to visualize the structure in three dimensions. The detailed ...

'Bet hedging' explains the efficacy of many combination cancer therapies

December 14, 2017
The efficacy of many FDA-approved cancer drug combinations is not due to synergistic interactions between drugs, but rather to a form of "bet hedging," according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.