News ID: 123167
Published: 0403 GMT July 24, 2015

Tracking breast cancer before it grows

Tracking breast cancer before it grows

A team of scientists, led by University of Saskatchewan researcher Dr. Saroj Kumar, is using cutting-edge Canadian Light Source techniques to screen and treat breast cancer at its earliest changes.

Kumar's work focuses on a type of cells that play an important role in cancer progression, known as fibroblasts. What role fibroblasts play, and how specifically they affect cancer's growth, is unclear, but they could lead to key applications in early cancer detection and treatment, said.

"By using infrared (mid-IR beamline), one can detect chemical changes in the very early stages, before there are any morphological changes," said Kumar. Hopefully, this would make it possible to detect breast cancer well before it started to physically grow or metastatize.

Over the last six months, Kumar and his collaborators have shown the clear advantages of using non-invasive infrared imaging to detect both breast and skin cancers. Because of the brightness of synchrotron light, their technique makes it possible to map chemical information across thousands or millions of cells without altering the body's cells in any way.

Infrared imaging could not only make it possible to screen for cancer in its infancy, but to predict possible drug treatment response on a patient-by-patient basis.

"Generally, there are several chemotherapy drugs, and right now there is no specific tool that says this chemotherapy drug will be efficient for this person but less for that person," said Kumar. "We could potentially use this method to see person-sensitive responses to the treatment."

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