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Laser Technology Could Advance Thyroid Cancer Screening

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 28 Mar 2016
Print article
A new, low-cost device could enable enhanced information and better diagnosis during thyroid nodule screening.

A multidisciplinary team that includes The Institute for Photonic Sciences (ICFO; Barcelona, Spain), Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy), the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom), along with five other European institutions, are collaborating on the laser and ultrasound co-analyzer for thyroid nodules (LUCA) project, which combines two photonics systems, near-infrared (NIR) diffuse correlation spectroscopy and time-resolved spectroscopy, along with a ultrasound system and a probe that enables multimodal data acquisition.

The project, launched to enhance screening of thyroid nodules for thyroid cancer, brings together clinical endocrinologists, radiologists, physicists, engineers, and industry players with the intention of developing a low-cost, point-of-care clinical device. According to the project partners, LUCA represents an innovative new tool for cancer diagnosis, screening, and therapy, and as such could have a significant impact not only in the field of thyroid cancer, but also in additional areas of the body accessible to both techniques.

“The device combines ultrasound and near-infrared diffuse optical technologies in a single device and a probe. By combining information about tissue hemodynamics, chemical constitution as well as anatomy, it will overcome the shortcomings of present techniques while screening for malign thyroid nodules,” said Prof. Turgut Durduran, PhD, of the ICFO, scientific coordinator of LUCA. “If successful, this will save millions of euros over the coming decades and improve the lives of millions of Europeans.”

“A new tool made concomitantly with thyroid ultrasound may provide additional information to help us distinguish between benign and malignant nodules,” said Mireia Mora, MD, of the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBAPS; Barcelona, Spain), responsible for the clinical application of the tool. “This would allow a reduction in the number of surgeries for these reasons, and would have an important socio-economic impact, diminishing the number of surgeries and the associated comorbidities, as well as improving the quality of life of the patients affected.”

Thyroid nodules are a common pathology, with a prevalence of around 5% in women and 1% in men, which increases to 19%–76% with diagnostic neck ultrasound. To exclude thyroid cancer when screening—which occurs in 5%–15% of cases—ultrasound is followed by fine-needle aspiration biopsy of suspicious nodules. In thyroid cancer, the sensitivity and specificity of this process are limited, with a large number of non-diagnostic and false positive results that lead to unnecessary surgery.

Related Links:

Photonic Sciences
Politecnico di Milano
University of Birmingham



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