Cancer Screening Research. Part 2

Computerizing Cancer Detection
Computer-aided diagnosis, or CAD, also is catching the eyes of many researchers. While not approved as a first analysis, computer software now exists to help radiologists spot early-stage cancers that might otherwise have been missed, according to a study presented in June 1999 at the “Era of Hope” meeting on breast cancer research in Atlanta.

Kunio Doi, Ph.D., a professor of radiology at the University of Chicago, which is considered a hotbed of cancer-detection development, has been applying CAD to breast cancer study for 15 years. With the CAD Prototype Intelligent Workstation he developed with colleagues, a woman’s regular mammogram can be scanned into a computer programmed to locate microcalcifications, which are cancer markers.

“Some lesions may be so subtle that a radiologist may miss those,” Doi said. “A radiologist can use the output from the computer for a second opinion.” In one study, the CAD workstation identified 52 percent of these “missed” cancers roughly a year before they actually were detected.

The university optioned the technique to R2 Technology, which developed a prototype two years ago. With U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, about 200 units of this technology are now available in the United States, Europe and Japan, Doi says.

He believes the technology also may be applied to lung cancer. Other researchers are working to make it available in colon cancer cases, perhaps by combining CAD technology with available computerized tomography (CT) scans.

Doi also touts the benefits of digital mammography, which is available in many centers and hospitals. The newer technique allows technicians to enhance the mammography image with color or magnify it to better detect small lesions that might not be noticed on conventional mammography, he says.

Millennium Technology
High-tech imaging is helping detect more cancers earlier, says Jack Zimmer, M.D., director of cardiac imaging and medical director of nuclear medicine at Baptist Hospital in Miami. His hospital is one of six that got an early look at the GE Millennium VG Hawkeye, a new imaging technology that quickly creates pictures of the body that reveal both the nature of abnormal growth and its precise location.

Unveiled in early June 2000 at the Society of Nuclear Medicine conference in St. Louis, Mo., the machine has the potential to eliminate procedures such as multiple diagnostic tests, biopsies and needlessly complex and invasive surgeries.

The Hawkeye system combines CT, which reveals the structural details of the body, with positron emission tomography, or PET, a nuclear medicine technology that detects the differences between diseased and healthy tissue.

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