Mammograms are not only one of the most dreaded medical procedures that women must endure, but they aren’t always the most accurate. Many times, women have dense breast tissue which makes it challenging to read the results and make an accurate assessment as to whether there are areas of concern. In other cases, benign tumors that could be left alone without treatment are removed, resulting in unnecessary surgery, scarring, and other complications. However, these days may soon be in the past. Scientists have been working on a new imaging tool that will allow diagnosis of breast cancer without use of a mammogram and reduce unnecessary invasive surgery.
A team of researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor noted that a failed experimental drug had some qualities that were very intriguing. A molecule within the pill was able to bind to certain proteins that are present on the surface of breast cancer cells. They then combined this molecule with a dye that is sensitive to infrared light, making it easier and less invasive to view tumors and growths that have these proteins that indicate a malignant growth.
These molecular imaging pills could prove to be a great resource for doctors and has overcome many of the challenges that had plagued researchers in their attempts to find similar ways to diagnose on the molecular level. The macromolecule that scientists have developed can survive the digestion process in the stomach and will pass through the liver without being flushed out, then absorbed into the bloodstream to do its job.
Results in Current Study
The study, conducted on mice, showed that these imaging pills were able to not only detect and bond with proteins but also indicate certain properties of the tumor or growth. The study showed that it has the potential to be more accurate than mammograms and other breast cancer screening techniques. Plus, it minimizes exposure to radiation through standard imaging and likely has fewer negative reactions than injectable dyes that are used as markers for other forms of imaging. Scientists continue their research and will eventually move on to clinical trials that would bring this diagnostic tool to the public.
Hope for the Future
Though the development is not ready for use in the general public, there is much hope that this breast cancer imaging pill can bring big changes to the future of diagnosis. This would bring an accurate and non-invasive technique for diagnosing breast cancer, allowing more women to get treatment when needed while those who have less concerning masses can be monitored for changes without unnecessary procedures. Additionally, the unique properties of the pill could have other indications in the field of diagnostics and treatment, as well. The hope of the scientists on the team is that this development will lead to additional research into how the pill can be modified for other purposes. In time, this infrared imaging technique could bring major changes to how doctors diagnose and treat a wide range of diseases and cancers.
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