A novel imaging technique that would help identify malignant breast tumours has been devised by a research team led by an Indian-origin scientist from Kimmel Cancer Centre at Jefferson.
Currently used imaging techniques miss up to 30pct of breast cancers and cannot distinguish malignant tumours from benign tumours, thus requiring invasive biopsies.
With the potential new imaging method, the researchers hopes to eliminate the need for a biopsy.
"The challenge has been to develop an imaging agent that will target a specific, fingerprint biomarker that visualizes malignant breast lesions early and reliably," said Dr Mathew Thakur, professor of Radiology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and director of Radiopharmaceutical Research and Nuclear Medicine Research.
The research team studied an agent called 64Cu-TP3805, which is used to evaluate tumours via PET imaging.
64Cu-TP3805 detects breast cancer by finding a biomarker called VPAC1, which is overexpressed as the tumour develops.
The researchers compared the images using that agent with images using the "gold standard" imaging agent, 18F-FDG.
They found that ten tumors were detected on the mice. Four tumours were detected using both 18F-FDG and 64Cu-TP3805, and four additional tumours were found with 64Cu-TP3805 only.
All eight of these tumours overexpressed the VPAC1 oncogene on tumour cells and were malignant by histology.
The remaining two tumours were benign and were detected only with 18F-FDG.
"If this ability of 64Cu-TP3805 holds up in humans, then in the future, PET scans with 64Cu-TP3805 will significantly contribute to the management of breast cancer," Thakur added.
The findings were published in the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.