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Scientists begin work on new breast cancer detection method

By Ryan Maass
Scientists begin work on new breast cancer detection method
The new cancer detection technique allows scientists to observe cancer cells in greater detail. Photo by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

DUBLIN, Ireland, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A research team comprised of doctors, engineers and mathematicians are proposing a new imaging technique for detecting breast cancer.

Scientists involved with the project hope to improve upon the drawbacks associated with conventional cancer detection methods. While they praise the advent of digital approaches and fast slide scanners, they note current methods often have trouble processing high-resolution images, which makes analysis more difficult. The team says they have addressed this issue with their proposed technique.

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"This unique research group could draw on a broad and deep knowledge base. Experts in numerical methods and image-processing liaised with medical pathologists, who were able to offer expert insight and could tell us precisely what information was of value to them," Trinity College Dublin researcher Bidisha Ghosh said in a press release. "It is an excellent example of how multidisciplinary research collaborations can address important societal issues."

Current cancer detection techniques in clinical practice often rely on a visual examination of a tissue biopsy specimen by a pathologist using a microscope.

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The new technique developed by the research team is able to differentiate individual cells in a cluster. The method was previously used for analyzing damaged surface areas on underwater marine structers such as bridge piers and pipelines. A paper on the procedure appeared in the journal PLOS ONE.

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"The potential for this technology is very exciting and we are delighted that this international and inter-disciplinary team has worked so well at tackling a real bottle-neck in automating the diagnosis of breast cancer using histopathology images," lead author Maqlin Paramanandam said.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer affecting women around the world. The disease begins when cells in the breast grow uncontrollably into tumors, and is typically treated with surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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