Researchers develop software for new cancer screening method

May 29, 2013
A new breast imaging technology called microwave tomography can make cancer screening more comfortable and less expensive. The patient simply lies on a special table placing her breast in a compartment filled with gel, and then the image is taken by the technician. Human testing is being done in South Korea, while the software is being developed by two South Dakota State University computer science professors.

Women may one day have a more accurate, less expensive means of detecting breast cancer, thanks in part to software developed by two South Dakota State University computer science professors.

Microwave tomography imaging, or MTI, has the potential to produce an image capable of finding cancer, even in women with dense breast tissue, at a fraction of the cost of current techniques, said professor Sung Shin. Since 2010, Shin and assistant professor Wei Wang have been working on this project with scientists from The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Chung Nam University in Daejeon, South Korea.

The government-owned research institute, which holds the patent on the microwave tomography machine, is developing its capabilities as a cancer screening tool, Shin explained. The experimental procedure was approved for use on human subjects in Korea last summer and the first 15 patients were screened in the fall. Each patient was evaluated using MTI, — or MRI—and mammography.

On this portion of the international collaborative project, Shin is working with Dr. Wu-Kyung Moon of Seoul National University, a medical doctor and one of South Korea's leading cancer researchers. Shin returned from Korea in January with the imaging data.

"We have rich information now," Wang said.

The software they develop will first identify the tumor on the MTI and then compare that image to a database of more than 100,000 MRI images. Next, the program will choose the cases that are most similar and extract the image along with the case files, Wang said. These will tell the doctor what treatments were used, how successful they were at combatting the cancer.

Based on the patient histories, doctors will have the information they need to determine the best plan of action for the patient.

The professors and their team of four master's degree students and one undergraduate have developed several algorithms, Wang said, "to optimally identify the tumor." Using the new patient data, they will determine which computer program is the more effective in determining the similarities between MTI and . Based on these comparisons, they will then improve the program's capabilities.

Shin explained that the process is dependent on the quality of image that the machine produces. Currently the imaging machine uses a wave frequency of three gigahertz, Wang said, "which gives the patient exposure to less radiation than using a cell phone."

In November, the research institute began upgrading its machine to six gigahertz and hopes to schedule human testing by March 2014.

"Higher frequency will give a better image," Wang said. They estimate that this work will take them until 2015 to complete and hope future funding will involve partnering with an American health-care facility.

Microwave tomography can be a compromise between mammography and MRI, Wang said. Although mammography is the least costly evaluation technique, its accuracy suffers when dealing with dense breast tissues, Shin said. Another downside to mammography is the patient's exposure to X-rays.

Tomography imaging also offers an increased comfort level and fewer steps for the patient, Shin said. Unlike mammography, no compression techniques are necessary. Waves travel through a gel called Phantom, so the patient simply lies down on a special bed that allows her to place her breast in the gel, Wang explained. In addition, tomography images are three-dimensional, so only one image is required, rather than the multiple angles necessary with mammography.

The current cost of a tomography machine is less than $100,000, as compared to $300,000 for a mammography unit and anywhere from $2.5 million to $4 million for an MRI machine, Shin said. However, what the experimental machine will eventually sell for has yet to be determined.

Once the software and imaging technique are perfected, Shin and Wang believe that microwave tomography can significantly reduce the health-care screening costs for women. In addition, this technology may also be suitable for prostate cancer.

Explore further: Software for new cancer screening method

Related Stories

Software for new cancer screening method

February 14, 2013
Women may one day have a more accurate, less expensive means of detecting breast cancer, thanks in part to software developed by two South Dakota State University computer science professors.

Microwave imaging can see how well treatment is progressing

April 23, 2013
Microwave imaging can be used to monitor how well treatment for breast cancer is working, finds new research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Breast Cancer Research. Microwave tomography was able to distinguish ...

Annual mammography with screening ultrasound may benefit women at increased risk of breast cancer

April 3, 2012
The addition of a screening ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to annual mammography in women with an increased risk of breast cancer and dense breast tissue resulted in a higher rate of detection of incident ...

Researchers discuss new frontiers in breast cancer screening

April 5, 2013
Researchers at Moffitt Cancer Center predict that advancements in breast cancer screening will need a personalized touch because mammography is not a "one strategy fits all" technology.

Digital mammography cancer detection rates may vary significantly

May 14, 2013
Digital direct radiography (DR) is significantly more effective than computed radiography (CR) at detecting breast cancer, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Tomosynthesis improves detection of infiltrating ductal carcinoma in patients with increased risk

April 13, 2013
Tomosynthesis (3D mammography) is better able to show infiltrating ductal carcinoma than 2D mammography in women at increased risk of breast cancer, a new study shows.

Recommended for you

Cancer-death button gets jammed by gut bacterium

July 27, 2017
Researchers at Michigan Medicine and in China showed that a type of bacterium is associated with the recurrence of colorectal cancer and poor outcomes. They found that Fusobacterium nucleatum in the gut can stop chemotherapy ...

Researchers release first draft of a genome-wide cancer 'dependency map'

July 27, 2017
In one of the largest efforts to build a comprehensive catalog of genetic vulnerabilities in cancer, researchers from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have identified more than 760 genes ...

Long-sought mechanism of metastasis is discovered in pancreatic cancer

July 27, 2017
Cells, just like people, have memories. They retain molecular markers that at the beginning of their existence helped guide their development. Cells that become cancerous may be making use of these early memories to power ...

Blocking the back-door that cancer cells use to escape death by radiotherapy

July 27, 2017
A natural healing mechanism of the body may be reducing the efficiency of radiotherapy in breast cancer patients, according to a new study.

Manmade peptides reduce breast cancer's spread

July 27, 2017
Manmade peptides that directly disrupt the inner workings of a gene known to support cancer's spread significantly reduce metastasis in a mouse model of breast cancer, scientists say.

Glowing tumor technology helps surgeons remove hidden cancer cells

July 27, 2017
Surgeons were able to identify and remove a greater number of cancerous nodules from lung cancer patients when combining intraoperative molecular imaging (IMI) - through the use of a contrast agent that makes tumor cells ...

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.