Radiation-free method for diagnosing breast cancer

This new method could revolutionize the diagnosis of this type of breast tumor because it absolutely harmless to women, no radiation, and offers a much more complete picture from a functional and multiparametric point of view.

In the coming weeks volunteers will be recruited take part in this initiative from among women participating in breast cancer early detection screening program from the Val d’Hebron hospital.

Unlike traditional ultrasound devices used in gynecology, which provide real-time images, this innovative technology prioritizes maximum image quality to improve diagnostic accuracy. It is not only directed supplement and improve the diagnosis of breast cancer, but will also potentially replace modern diagnostic methods such as mammography, which use X-rays.

The world’s only CT scanner

Imaging will use 3D ultrasound computed tomography (3D USCT III), designed and manufactured by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) in Germany, one of QUSTom’s partners. This is the only complete device in the world with such characteristics.

Featuring a three-dimensional hemispherical aperture consisting of 2,304 individual sensors acting as transmitters and receivers, it is used to examine breast tissue for pathological changes. KIT is working to develop more prototypes, but the first one to be tested in patients is the one currently in Barcelona..

Before the device reached its present stage, it passed Electrical and ultrasonic safety test series under the control of a certified medical device testing laboratory in Germany.

Once all the data has been collected, it will be reconstructed using a 3D full-wavelength inversion algorithm and converted into high-resolution medical images using the power of the MareNostrum5 supercomputer at BSC using UBIware software developed by FrontWave Imaging, a BSC company and Imperial College London, which also is the sponsor of clinical validation.

The project also includes concepts such as multimodal visualization and obtaining real 3D imageswhich is an unprecedented combination of breast imaging techniques using ultrasound.

Radiation-free technique could revolutionize breast cancer diagnosis

Digital twin of simulated breast tissue in MareNostrum 5

With the MareNostrum 5 supercomputer approx. 50,000 simulated ultrasound waves for each reconstructed image. In 2D, this problem is not very difficult and can be computed using multiple graphics processing units (GPUs) in a regular cloud. However, in 3D the problem becomes so enormous that, to date, no one has applied the best image reconstruction techniques through simulation to 3D data like those that will be used in this clinical trial.

“With MareNostrum 5 we will be pioneers in this area. What we can achieve in a few days on BSC would take years on a regular computer.“, he decided Josep de la Puente, BSC researcher and QUSTom coordinator.

The BSC researcher explains that at its core the project is building digital twin of breast tissue and an ultrasonic measurement device. This digital twin replicates any ultrasound emitted by the physical device used by the radiologist. “Therefore, we can purchase not just an image after processing, but a complete three-dimensional map this details the properties of the fabric in every pixel,” De la Puente said.

“This new diagnostic tool will allow us to offer more complete imaging from a functional and multiparametric perspective, avoiding the use of ionizing radiation and improving women’s comfort during their annual radiological examination to detect breast cancer at an early stage.” emphasized Ana Maria Rodríguez Arana, Head of the Women’s Radiology Service at the Val d’Hebron Hospital and Principal Investigator of the Molecular Medical Imaging Group at the Val d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR).

Harmless for women

Unlike other tests such as mammographyQUSTom technology does not use radiation. The new device offers potentially higher image quality and better tumor tracking through the use of ultrasound and supercomputers. The examination is painless and more comfortable for the patient.

The technology has wide application, but may be especially useful for people with dense breast tissue, According to the Spanish Society of Senology and Breast Pathology (SESPM), this represents 40% of women worldwide.

To develop the project, BSC used its experience in discovering and analyzing data obtained from mechanical wave problems, so that the algorithms used for medical imaging are inspired by other algorithms used in completely different areas of research, such as . analysis of the earth’s interior.

In addition to the BSC, the Val d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and FrontWave Imaging, the project has three other partners: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Arctur and Imperial College London.

Radiation-free technique could revolutionize breast cancer diagnosis

How it works

  1. The patient is placed face down on the bed, while the chest is immersed in a container filled with water at a temperature of 36.5°C.
  2. Ultrasound is then used to obtain data from each breast separately.
  3. The recorded data is transferred to the computer.
  4. The procedure lasts approximately 3 minutes for each breast.
  5. Within a few hours and after thousands of simulations, the software used in the supercomputer generates real, high-quality 3D images that can provide a more accurate diagnosis. These images are ready for doctors to analyze.

Breast cancer: the most diagnosed tumor type in the world

Statistics from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM) show that breast cancer is one of the most common tumors worldwide, with 2.3 million women diagnosed in 2020 and 700,000 people dying from the disease in the same year.

According to REDECAN, around 36,395 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be reported in Spain in 2024, representing a slight increase compared to the previous year.

Early detection of the disease is critical as it can significantly improve survival. While mammography is a widely used tool for detecting breast cancer and has helped save many lives, it is exciting to have a number of options for new radiation-free technologies that can be used for diagnosis.

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