Breast scanner identifies growths

Researchers at UC Irvine’s Beckman Laser Institute have developed a laser breast scanner that can accurately distinguish between malignant and benign growths.

The scanner, which was developed by Beckman Laser Institute director Bruce Tromberg and assistant researcher Albert Cerussi, employs a new analysis method devised by UCI biomedical engineering professor Enrico Gratton that provides detailed metabolic information by measuring haemoglobin, fat and water content, as well as tumour oxygen consumption and tissue density.

’The scanning method could improve detection in women with dense breast tissue who don’t do well with mammography,’ said UCI surgical oncologist Dr David Hsiang. ’It doesn’t require added contrast agents and can help make diagnosis more exact and treatment more focused.’

The UCI laser breast scanner is also proving beneficial in evaluating the effectiveness of chemotherapy by supplying detailed data on changes in breast tumour metabolism during treatments. This information lets oncologists tailor chemotherapy based on how a patient responds.

’The use of chemotherapy for tumour reduction prior to surgery is important with certain types of breast cancer,” said UCI surgical oncologist Dr John Butler. ’The metabolic fingerprint the scanner provides indicates how the chemotherapy is working and allows doctors to adjust treatments as needed.’

Bay Area biotechnology company FirstScan has licensed the technology and plans to commercialise the system.