New Technology Could Prevent Overtreatment of Breast Cancer

Both patients with aggressive and non-aggressive ductal carcinoma in situ receive the same treatment.

Scientists recently developed a novel technology that can distinguish aggressive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or stage 0 from non-aggressive versions, which can lead to less aggressive treatment for some patients.

The technology, called biomarker ratio imagining microscopy (BRIM), uses a combination of mathematics and traditional imaging to identify levels of certain biomarkers in a tumor, according to the study published by Scientific Reports.

"A patient with DCIS is typically treated as if she has invasive disease, which is easy to understand. When women hear breast cancer, they're petrified. And physicians are keenly concerned about outcomes as well," said study author Howard R. Petty, PhD. "But, DCIS is not the same disease for everyone. If we can identify potentially non-aggressive lesions, perhaps those women don't need aggressive treatment."

Researchers analyzed biopsy samples from 23 patients with DCIS, and used fluorescence imagining to distinguish the different biomarkers. A benefit to this imaging technique is that multiple biomarkers can be studied rather than just 1. Each biomarker was stained with a different color.

Samples were then entered into a program that finds the ratio of biomarkers, which is a combination of high and low expressed biomarkers. Researchers were able to distinguish which tumor samples had a high amount of aggressive cancer stem cells from those that were likely benign, according to the study.

Approximately 22% of the samples suggested a slow-growing disease rather than an aggressive form.

"This approach is going to be a new and powerful one,” Dr Petty said. “It works because we're looking at it mathematically.”

The researchers believe that their findings could potentially prevent overtreatment of DCIS, and show the potential of BRIM to be used for other breast cancer treatment decisions, the study concluded.