Skip to main content

ASU, UCLA making breakthroughs in breast cancer detection

October 25, 2012

Editor's Note: Arizona State football will take on the University of California, Los Angeles, at noon, Oct. 27 in Tempe. Learn more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

Breast cancer is one of the most proliferative diseases of our time, with an estimated 1 in 8 women being diagnosed in their lifetime. Awareness has grown exponentially over the years but, as is the case with most diseases, early detection can be key in survival.

Arizona State University and fellow Pac-12 school, University of California, Los Angeles, are making breakthroughs in breast cancer research with a new type of 3-D imaging that can detect tumors earlier and with more accuracy than traditional 2-D images.

At ASU’s Biodesign Institute, a team of researchers led by Deirdre Meldrum, senior scientist and director of the Center for Biosignatures Discovery Automation at Biodesign, has examined normal, benign and malignant cells using an instrument called Cell-CT. The device operates much like a normal CT scanner, though it uses visible photons of light, rather than X-rays.

Cell-CT allows for a more accurate picture of tumors, displaying 3-D images of cells with true isotropic resolution. This new technology is crucial in recognizing subtle cellular details that weren’t as apparent with more conventional forms of microscopy.

Meanwhile, UCLA professor and researcher with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, Jianwei (John) Miao, is currently working with a team using a special detection method known as phase contrast tomography.

In this method, X-rays are taken of a human breast from multiple angles and then an algorithm developed by Miao and his team is applied to the images, resulting in a higher resolution. The algorithm is called equally sloped tomography, or EST, and the technique requires less radiation than a mammogram.

Though this technology does signify a profound breakthrough in breast cancer detection, it is still very new and only in the research stage. While it won’t be available to patients for some time, the research that is being done at ASU and UCLA foretells some very promising future developments.