BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) Mar 20 – Scientists have developed a new high-speed technique to determine if breast cancer has spread by looking at how light is scattered by cancerous tissue, a cancer researcher said on Wednesday.
Instead of patients waiting for histologic analysis following surgery, an "optical biopsy" would determine almost immediately if it contained cancerous cells, Andrew Lee of University College London (UCL) said in an interview.
"The potential application for our system is that it will detect cancer at the time of the initial surgery, so that it saves the patient the necessity of coming back for a second operation and the anxiety of waiting a few days for the analysis," Lee explained.
The optical biopsy would detect the spread of cancer to the lymph nodes as well as any residual cancer in the breast that had not been removed during surgery, said Lee, one of the developers of the new technique. He was speaking at the 3rd European Breast Cancer Conference, a 5-day event attended by 4000 scientists, physicians, and patient advocates.
The optical biopsy produces an almost instant result by analysing how light is scattered by the tissue sample. Light is fed down an optical fibre on the lymph node sample, and as it is scattered it is picked up by a second fibre and fed into a portable computer. It then compares the optical signatures to samples of healthy and cancerous tissues.