New cancer imaging system hastens cancer detection

A cancer diagnosis often needs a lengthy process of several analyses of tissue biopsies. Often, the time placed on cancer detection impedes the early initiation of treatment. A new study highlights a novel imaging system that utilizes near-infrared light, which makes the procedure less invasive and produces faster results.

Cancer Cells

Image Credit: jovan vitanovski/Shutterstock.com

Tissue biopsy analysis or histopathological analysis is performed to study tissue samples to detect the presence of cancer cells. Doctors take specimens from various tissue locations. The specimens are then sent to a pathologist who will stain the tissues to determine if cancerous cells are present. Though biopsies are already being done across the globe and are established procedures, it is usually invasive.

Furthermore, in biopsies, doctors need to get tissue samples from multiple locations with the same organ to increase the likelihood of catching cancer cells. This procedure may not apply to other organs in the body, such as the uterus, pancreas and the lungs. Another issue with biopsies is the length of time needed for results to be released.

Masaru Ishii, lead author of the study stated, "Time is of the essence when it comes to cancer. The goal of our study was to develop a novel technique that can provide a cancer diagnosis in real-time using the obtained tissues only, without further histopathological preparation,”

Novel imaging system

The researchers obtained biopsies from healthy patients and those with cervical cancer, the fourth most common type of cancer in women.

The samples are examined using the team’s novel imaging system, which uses near-infrared light to scan the tissues. The procedure is not invasive, unlike the conventional method, which makes it more comfortable to use in patients.

The researchers wrote in the paper, “Here we report a novel method for visualizing human cervical tissue three-dimensionally, without biopsy, fixation, or staining, and with sufficient quality for histological diagnosis.”

Near-infrared excitation and nonlinear optics were employed to visualize unstained human epithelial tissues of the cervix uteri by constructing images with third-harmonic generation (THG) and second-harmonic generation (SHG),”

The new imaging method can scan tissues in two dimensions, which is also a feature of the traditional biopsy method, but also in three-dimensions. As a result, the doctors can get a full picture of the tissues, with better chances of catching cancerous cells.

In their analysis of the tissue samples with the use of the new method, the team has found that in cancerous cells, the nuclei had irregular shapes. They analyzed the results using a machine learning algorithm, and they established a quantitative approach so they can classify healthy cells from cancerous ones based on nuclear shape.

The researchers also developed another classification algorithm that considers the amount of connective tissue in the samples to determine if the tissue being studied is healthy or not.

“Our method enables real-time noninvasive diagnosis of cervical lesions, thus constituting a potential tool to dramatically change early detection,” the researchers concluded.

Confirmatory tests

To confirm that their new method is as effective as conventional methods, the researchers asked pathologists to study the specimens using traditional histopathological analysis. They found a significant overlap between the two methods.

The team said that applying both the newly developed classification algorithms even allowed them to differentiate between invasive cancer and the cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, precancerous condition in which abnormal cells grow on the surface of the cervix.

The new method helped scientists to study the tissues in a three-dimensional method, without extensive tissue preparation, making the procedure more convenient and faster. With a faster turnaround time in detecting cancer cells in biopsies, more people with cancer can get timely treatment.

These are striking results that show how the combination of our technique with image analysis using artificial intelligence enables the less-invasive, quick and quantitative detection of cervical cancer compared to the conventional approach. Our imaging system could help develop novel medical devices as an improved approach for the diagnosis of cancers.”

Dr. Ishii

In 2018 alone, around 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer across the globe, with an estimated 311,000 women dying from the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports.

Sources:
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Written by

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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