Lasers enable radiation-free breast cancer imaging

Laser technology could eventually lead to radiation-free screening for breast cancer patients, according to a study in the journal Optics Express.

The lasers--created by a device known as the Twente photoacoustic mammoscope (PAM)--induced ultrasound transients and identified malignant tumors at a higher contrast than images produced by x-ray mammography, according to researchers from the University of Twente and Medisch Spectrum Twente Hospital in the Netherlands.

"The technique has several advantages over conventional modalities," the researchers wrote. "The method neither uses ionizing radiation, nor contrast agents and seems to not be affected by the fibroglandular breast density. It is expected that even better contrasts and imaging depths would be obtained with the optimal choice of wavelengths and change of the image configuration."

Such research could prove particularly valuable, considering that in February, researchers with the UCLA Department of Radiation Oncology determined that radiation treatment for breast cancer can transform other cancer cells into treatment-resistant breast cancer stem cells.

"We found that these induced breast cancer stem cells were generated by radiation-induced activation of the same cellular pathways used to reprogram normal cells into induced pluripotent stem cells in regenerative medicine," Frank Pajonk, an associate professor of radiation oncology, said in a statement. "It was remarkable that these breast cancers used the same reprogramming pathways to fight back against the radiation treatment."

Additionally, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York recently determined that girls who received radiation to their chests as part of treatments for childhood cancer to be more at risk for breast cancer as young adults, according to an article from HealthDay News.

Curbing radiation overexposure continues to be a white whale for medical researchers. Just last week, we reported on a new data repository designed to keep track of incidents of radiation overexposure being used at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. What's more, the ECRI Institute has listed radiation overexposure as one of the top two most dangerous health technology hazards two years in a row.

To learn more:
- here's the Optics Express study
- here's the UCLA announcement from February (.pdf)
- read the HealthDay News article

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