Early detection and removal of tumors is the key to reducing cancer deaths. Researchers have been trying for decades to consistently identify malignant tumors between one and two millimeters in diameter. Doing so affords patients a more than 90-percent chance of survival, but many breast cancer patients today have tumors that are incurable by the time they are found. More than 40,000 U.S. women will die from the disease in 2005.
"Small disease is curable disease," Ning said. "In pre-clinical trials, Cone Beam CT detected with certainty tumors between one and two millimeters in diameter, while standard mammography had trouble accurately detecting tumors ten times that size."
When a malignant tumor reaches about 2 mm in size, two deadly events occur: angiogenesis and metastasis. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels that supply the nutrients tumors need to grow. With the newly formed vessels in place, cancer cells that break away from the tumor can circulate through the body to seed cancer elsewhere (metastasis).
Conventional mammography, little different than technology developed in the 1950s, spots a tumor at 11 millimeters in diameter on average. The problem is that the technology attempts to capture the image of a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional detector. In the resulting images, small tumors located in the middle of the breast may be lost among the overlapping layers o
Contact: Greg Williams
University of Rochester Medical Center