Researchers from Florida Atlantic University, the Center for Breast Care at the Women's Center at Boca Raton Community Hospital, and MeVis, the Center for Diagnostic Systems and Visualization at the University of Breman, Germany, have developed new techniques to aid clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. They have developed and piloted a unique software platform utilizing computational clinical imaging techniques for the analysis and display of serial-time magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is showing great promise in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
These US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved techniques were developed at MeVis and the Center for Diagnostics Systems and Visualization, under the direction of Dr. Heinz-Otto Peitgen, who is also a faculty member in the department of mathematical sciences at FAU's Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. Peitgen used the mathematical concept of fractals to begin developing this unique software.
"Fractals are large, irregular geometric patterns made up of infinitely smaller, but identical, irregular patterns," said Peitgen. "Fractal theory provided an appropriate platform upon which to build the software program because the ducts within human breast tissue have fractal properties."
Breast MRI is a relatively new tool used by physicians to diagnose breast cancer as an adjunct to conventional mammography. Breast MRI displays the behavior of a cancerous lesion in three dimensions and approaches a nearly 100% accuracy rate in the detection of invasive cancer. In contrast, mammography provides a two-dimensional view of the breast and surrounding tissue and only detects 80% to 85% of tumors. One of the main strengths of MRI is its precise delineation of soft tissue and its ability to image the breast in fine sections dynamically by taking multiple MRI images over time. The percentage of medical centers doing breast MRI is small, but growing.
Change in Treatment Course
A recent 65-patient study spearheaded by Dr. Kathy Schilling, medical director of imaging and intervention at the Center for Breast Care at the Women's Center at Boca Raton Community Hospital, was published in the American Journal of Radiology. Findings of this study showed that in over 30% of patients there were additional tumors in the same breast, and in almost 10% of patients there were tumors in the opposite breast.
"These tumors were not found using mammography or ultrasound," said Schilling. "We also found a resulting change in the course of treatment in nearly 25% of patients undergoing surgery for newly diagnosed breast cancer." In addition, findings from this study showed that MRI-directed biopsies using computational clinical imaging led to definitive conclusions, demonstrating the clinical utility of this unique approach.