From the air, the twists and turns of rivers can easily be seen. In the body, however, tracing the twists and turns of blood vessels is difficult, but important. Vessel "bendiness" can indicate the presence and progression of cancer.
This principle led UNC scientists to a new method of using a high-resolution ultrasound to identify early tumors in preclinical studies. The method, based on vessel bendiness or "tortuosity," potentially offers an inexpensive, non-invasive and fast method to detect cancer that could someday help doctors identify cancers when tumors are less than a centimeter in size.
Their findings were published in the July 6, 2012 online issue of the journal Radiology.
Paul Dayton, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering explains, "The correlation between vessel tortuosity and cancer is well-established. What's new about our finding is that we can visualize these vessels in minutes with a very quick scan, using very inexpensive imaging methods." Dr. Dayton is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The UNC team used a new high-resolution ultrasound method, called "acoustic angiography," with an intravascular contrast agent that allowed them to acquire images of only the blood vessels. "Unlike current clinical 'grayscale' ultrasound, this method filters out all tissue signals, so we can see small blood vessels clearly." says Dayton.