Optical imaging system could ID breast cancer patients who will benefit most from chemotherapy

March 2, 2018
The imaging system may be able to predict response to chemotherapy as early as two weeks after beginning treatment.

A new optical imaging system developed at Columbia University (New York, NY) uses red and near-infrared (near-IR) light to identify breast cancer patients who will respond to chemotherapy. The imaging system may be able to predict response to chemotherapy as early as two weeks after beginning treatment.

Related: Fluorescence system correctly identifies residual cancer cells across breast cancer subtypes

The optical imaging system was developed in the laboratory of Andreas Hielscher, co-leader of the study, professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering, and professor of radiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

The dynamic optical tomographic breast imaging system generates 3D images of both breasts simultaneously. The images enable the researchers to look at blood flow in the breasts, see how the vasculature changes, and how the blood interacts with the tumor. "This helps us distinguish malignant from healthy tissue and tells us how the tumor is responding to chemotherapy earlier than other imaging techniques can," Hielscher explains.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy, given for five to six months before surgery, is the standard treatment for some women with newly diagnosed invasive, but operable, breast cancer. The aim of neoadjuvant chemotherapy is to eliminate active cancer cells—producing a complete response—before surgery. Those who achieve a complete response have a lower risk of cancer recurrence than those who do not. However, fewer than half of women treated with neoadjuvant chemotherapy achieve a complete response.

"Patients who respond to neoadjuvant chemotherapy have better outcomes than those who do not, so determining early in treatment who is going to be more likely to have a complete response is important," says Dawn Hershman, MD, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia and co-leader of the study. "If we know early that a patient is not going to respond to the treatment they are getting, it may be possible to change treatment and avoid side effects."

The researchers had suspected that looking at the vasculature system in breasts might hold a clue. Breast tumors have a denser network of blood vessels than those found in a healthy breast. Blood flows freely through healthy breasts, but in breasts with tumors, blood gets soaked up by the tumor, inhibiting blood flow. Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, but they also affect the vasculature inside the tumor. The team thought they might be able to pick optical clues of these vascular changes, since blood is a strong absorber of light.

The researchers analyzed imaging data from 34 patients with invasive breast cancer between June 2011 and March 2016. The patients comfortably positioned their breasts in the optical system, where, unlike mammograms, there was no compression.

The investigators captured a series of images during a breath hold of at least 15 seconds, which inhibited the backflow of blood through the veins but not the inflow through the arteries. Additional images were captured after the breath was released, allowing the blood to flow out of the veins in the breasts. Images were obtained before and two weeks after starting chemotherapy. The researchers then compared the images with the patients' outcomes after five months of chemotherapy. They found that various aspects of the blood inflow and outflow could be used to distinguish between patients who respond and those who do not respond to therapy. For example, the rate of blood outflow can be used to correctly identify responders in 92.3% of patients, while the initial increase of blood concentration inside the tumor can be used to identify non-responders in 90.5% of patients.

"If we can confirm these results in the larger study that we are planning to begin soon, this imaging system may allow us to personalize breast cancer treatment and offer the treatment that is most likely to benefit individual patients," says Hershman, who is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Hielscher and Hershman are currently refining and optimizing the imaging system and planning a larger, multicenter clinical trial. They hope to commercialize their technology in the next three to five years.

Full details of the work appear in the journal Radiology.

About the Author

BioOptics World Editors

We edited the content of this article, which was contributed by outside sources, to fit our style and substance requirements. (Editor’s Note: BioOptics World has folded as a brand and is now part of Laser Focus World, effective in 2022.)

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Motion Scan and Data Collection Methods for Electro-Optic System Testing

April 10, 2024
Learn how different scanning patterns and approaches can be used in measuring an electro-optic sensor performance, by reading our whitepaper here!

How Precision Motion Systems are Shaping the Future of Semiconductor Manufacturing

March 28, 2024
This article highlights the pivotal role precision motion systems play in supporting the latest semiconductor manufacturing trends.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!