Configuring infrared spectroscopy tools for better detection of breast cancer

The detection and analysis of breast cancer goes beyond the initial discovery of cancer itself. If the patient has the tumor removed and needs to be analyzed to determine further treatment, it may be okay for the results to last 24 hours. But if the patient is still on the operating table, and clinicians are waiting to make sure that there are no cancer cells on the edges of the removed tumor, the results must be almost immediate.

A paper entitled “Histopathology of breast cancer using infrared spectroscopic imaging: the influence of instrumental configurations” was published in Clinical spectroscopy, an extension of previous work by Beckman Institute postdoctoral fellow Shachi Mittal and Rohit Bhargave, a professor of bioengineering and director of the Illinois Cancer Center. Two former students of Beckman’s postdoctoral program, Michael Walsh and Tomasz Wrobel, are co-authors. It seeks to improve methodologies for detecting breast cancer when using spectroscopic imaging.

They conducted research at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Because time is paramount in detecting breast cancer, research identifies how clinicians can choose the right detection methods and tools during the correct scenario to continue to achieve accurate results.

“The aim of the study was to give people a roadmap on how to plan and design an infrared-based study for clinical work such as digital histopathology,” Mittal said. “In one scenario, determine which instrument configuration will be better, and then determine what types of methodologies you can use to develop precise models with that instrument.”

The team set out to examine the trade-off between using a standard Fourier transform infrared image or a high-resolution Fourier infrared image.

“We wanted to see how different types of instruments, especially different resolutions, and how this affects the ability of that data set to be used for different diagnostic purposes,” Mittal said.

Instead of finding that one method is always superior, the researchers found that the answer was much more complex. Although high-definition imaging may seem the best option regardless of the circumstances, sometimes standard-resolution infrared spectroscopy is sufficient in accuracy in cases where clinicians need a quick result, for example.

“As technology expands and provides more opportunities with new features, it is becoming increasingly difficult to select the optimal technology from the many options available,” Bhargava said. “This study provides a nice comparison and guidelines for designing more useful and practical technology.”

For Mittal, research is an important step toward better dissecting, understanding, and treating cancer.

“Cancer is something we understand very little about,” she said. “It’s not just about traveling to fight the disease, it’s also about mental strain. Patients often don’t understand, and they also recognize that the doctor may not fully understand.”

Mittal focused on breast cancer during her first graduate project, and continues to specialize her research in hopes of achieving something significant that she will later be able to apply to other types of cancer in her academic career. She notes that breast cancer has one of the highest mortality rates when looking at cancers that affect women.

“For women, it’s not just about fighting the disease, it also comes with a lot of cosmetic and life challenges,” she said.

The interdisciplinary work that resulted in the work was made possible by the Beckman Institute, Bhargava said.

“Developing new technology for human use requires broad expertise that can bring together places like Beckman,” he said. “I note that this study includes one current (Shachi) and one former (Tomasz) Beckman member, as well as Carle-Beckman’s associate (Michael). Together, the work of these academics is helping to incubate a new community that provides chemical imaging technology to address human disease. ”


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