Cancer affects an astonishing 40% of people according to Macmillan Cancer Support, as such there are few people that have not either been affected by it or had someone close to them affected. Research from the University of North Carolina has developed a new technique shown to aid in early detection of cancer utilizing ultrasonic waves. This adds another string to the bow of ultrasound technicians and will further help grow the industry as a whole in the years to come, which can only be good news for those wishing to provide quality patient care.
Throughout a person’s body their blood vessels snake through them in a manner that from a distance resembles the twists and turns of a river looked at from above. It has been discovered however that this blood vessel tortuosity or “bendiness” can actually be a sign of the presence and progression of cancer in a patient.
What the researcher’s at UNC have developed is a method of high-resolution ultrasound imaging that can map out these inner blood vessels and then ultrasound technicians can detect blood vessel abnormality from the resulting pictures; this technique has been used in order to identify early tumors in preclinical studies. Although still early days for the research this is an exciting proposition due to the non-invasive nature of it, while being potentially accurate enough to detect tumors less than a centimeter in size. Given that early detection of cancer carries such benefits with regards to how beneficial treatment is, this research could potentially save thousands of lives.
Paul Dayton, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering and part of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center further supports this idea by saying, “The correlation between vessel tortuosity and cancer is well-established. What’s new about our finding is that we can visualize these vessels in minutes with a very quick scan, using very inexpensive imaging methods.”
This new high quality ultrasound imaging has been termed “acoustic angiography”; it utilizes an intravascular contrast agent that enables the technicians to create sonograms of only the blood vessels. Unlike the more regularly used 2D ultrasound frequently used in obstetrics to detect fetal growth, this ultrasound manages to filter out any data that represents tissue thus enabling them to view the inner blood vessels clearly.
Dayton goes onto say “Our results showed a definitive difference between vessels within and surrounding tumors versus those associated with normal healthy vasculature. The limitation that we must now address is that our method works only for tumors at a shallow depth into tissue, such as melanomas or thyroid cancer. Our next studies will focus on this imaging-depth issue as well as evaluating the ability of this technology to determine a tumor’s response to therapy.”
“We know from several clinical and preclinical MRI studies at UNC by Elizabeth Bullitt, MD, and others, and at other institutions that vessels can unbend, or “normalize,” in response to effective therapy. We need to see if our inexpensive ultrasound-based method of blood vessel visualization and tortuosity analysis can detect this normalization prior to conventional assessments of tumor response to therapy, such as measurements of tumor size.”
This is clearly a great step forward in the war against cancer, it is rare that such potential detection methods are produced that are not only fast and non-invasive, but also require no exposure to radiation and are therefore safe for everyone.
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Source : www.medindia.net