In a study published recently in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, a team of researchers from Standford University (CA, USA) report a novel method of diagnosing cancer without resorting to surgery.
In a preliminary safety trial, 24 women with ovarian tumors and 21 women with breast tumors were intravenously injected with a clinical-grade contrast agent. The microbubble’s in this study were designed to bind to a receptor termed KDR which is observed in the tumor blood vessels of cancerous vessels but not healthy tissue.
Utilizing ultrasound molecular imaging the team demonstrated that the contrast microbubble clustered in the blood vessels of tumors that were malignant but not benign. To confirm the accuracy of the diagnostic microbubbles the team also conducted biopsies and pathology studies.
Overall, the team demonstrated that ultrasound molecular imaging with the targeted contrast microbubble is clinically feasible and safe. Previously this form of microbubbles has only been utilized to image organs such as the liver by displaying the bubbles as they pass through blood vessels.
Willman (Stanford University) commented:”The difficulty with ultrasound right now is that it detects a lot of lesions in the breast, but most of them are benign. And that leads to many unnecessary biopsies and surgeries. To decrease those unnecessary biopsies and surgeries would be a huge leap forward. We could make ultrasound a highly accurate screening technology that is relatively low cost, highly available and with no radiation.”
Following the success of this preliminary safety trial the team are now planning to move onto a Phase II trial. The team hope that KDR microbubbles could improve diagnoses and reduce unnecessary surgeries in women suspected of having breast or ovarian cancer.