Researchers Create New Technology to ID Aggressive Breast Cancer

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a new technology to tell whether or not stage 0 breast cancer will be aggressive or non-aggressive.

This new innovation is called Biomarker Ratio Imaging Microscopy (BRIM). BRIM technology combines traditional pathology techniques with mathematical analysis to determine the levels of biomarkers in a tumor – whether or not the breast cancer needs aggressive treatment.

Study author Howard R. Petty, professor of ophthalmology, visual sciences, microbiology, and immunology, stated that women with stage 0 breast cancer (otherwise known as DCIS) are treated as if they have an invasive disease regardless of the fact that it’s different for everyone. By using BRIM technology, doctors will be able to identify the aggressive from  non-aggressive tumors and provide the appropriate treatment.

Petty worked with Andrea J. Clark for this study. They looked at biopsy samples from 23 DCIS patients. Using fluorescence imaging, they stained tumors a different colour to identify their biomarkers. These samples were then entered into a computer program to identify the ratio of biomarker in each pixel.

Some biomarkers are expressed highly in cancer and some have a low expression. BRIM allows researchers to “take the ratio of expression”. “This means high and low do not cancel each other out, but rather combine to form an image of improved contrast”. Researchers were able to separate DCIS patient samples into those with a lot of cancer stems cells – meaning highly aggressive cancer – and those that were benign.

Other than preventing over-treatment for non-aggressive breast cancer, the researchers suggest that BRIM could be used to help with breast cancer treatment decisions as a whole. They’re also hoping to use this type of technology on other forms of cancer.

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Story source: Eureka Alert

Featured image source: University of Michigan Health System

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