Fractals, Breath Tests Provide New Breast Cancer Therapeutic Tools

Researchers are pursuing federal funds to continue research into innovative methods of detecting breast cancer and reducing false positives associated with traditional methods. Two such methods are a breath test for five volatile organic compounds that have been shown to be biomarkers for breast cancer, and a fractal-based software tool for interpreting magnetic resonance images (MRIs). The breath test has finished Phase I clinical trials, while the software tool is approved for sale, but researchers are seeking funding for both methods.

Researchers initially recruited three groups of women in the course of developing the breath test, including 101 women who had had an abnormal mammogram who were being referred to have a biopsy. Of those, 51 were determined to have breast cancer, while 50 did not. Both groups were then compared to 42 age-matched normal women, according to Michael Phillips, M.D., professor of clinical medicine at New York Medical College and CEO of Menssana Research, which is developing the technology.

"We found that we only needed five volatile organic compounds to actually predict breast cancer," says Phillips, noting that the short list included 23dihydro1phenyl4(1h)quinasolinone, 2propynol, 1phenylethanone, Heptanalm, and Isopropyl myristate.

The results of the study were first reported in 2004 in The Breast Journal, but the data were reanalyzed and republished last year in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. "The test was positive in 93.8 percent of women who had breast cancer, and negative in 84.6 percent of women who did not have it," Phillips says.

Fractal Theory Good Model for Breast Vasculature

In another 2005 paper, researchers examined the results of analyzing breast MRIs with DynaCAD, a fractal-based software developed by the Center for Medical Diagnostic Systems and Visualization (MeVIS) in Germany. "We found that we were able to identify 33 percent more cancer than with conventional imaging," says Kathy Schilling, M.D., medical director of breast imaging and intervention at the Center for Breast Care at Boca Raton Community Hospital. "The software uses a mathematical equation to translate MRI signals into time-intensity curves which are assigned a particular color," she says.

The technology uses math formulas to evaluate blood profusion within breast tissue. "Breast cancers induce the formation of new blood vessels because they need nutrients to grow, but the blood vessels are abnormal and leaky," Schilling says.

Like Menssana, the developers of DynaCAD are seeking funding to improve the tool and incorporate other 3-D imaging tools for the breast such as ultrasound, mammogram and PET (positron emission tomography), says Schilling. DynaCAD is currently charged at around $50,000 to $60,000 per hospital, she says.
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