Fusion ultrasound/optical imaging diagnoses aggressive breast cancers

September 13, 2004

CONTEXT: The combination of ultrasound and near-infrared (NIR) optical tomography employs the functional parameters of tumor hemoglobin distribution and oxygen saturation as an adjunct to ultrasound and x-ray mammography for accurate diagnosis of breast cancer. Quing Zhu, Ph.D., an associate professor of bioengineering, and her collaborators at the University of Connecticut Health Center, led by Dr. Scott Kurtzman, and Hartford Hospital, led by Dr. Edward Cronin, performed a preliminary clinical trial of the hybrid technique in more than 100 patients scheduled for breast biopsies.

RESULTS: Coregistered ultrasound images and NIR optical data were acquired simultaneously from each patient, using a handheld probe housing a commercial ultrasound transducer and optical sources and detectors. The novel optical imaging technique invented by Zhu took advantage of ultrasound localization and reconstructed lesions with a finer grid than that of background tissue. As a result, the quantification of lesion light absorption-and, therefore, total hemoglobin concentration-was significantly improved. Initial results revealed about twice the hemoglobin concentration in invasive cancers as in benign lesions.

IMPLICATIONS: Initial findings suggest that hybrid ultrasound/optical imaging may provide a low-cost, noninvasive, highly specific way to diagnose breast cancers, especially those that are small and aggressive, Zhu said. The next step involves using the technique to monitor the response of breast cancer to chemotherapy.