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Automated screening process may eventually reduce additional breast cancer surgeries
Date:1/30/2009

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The researchers used a method called "touch prep" to collect the cancer cells for evaluation, which entails gathering cells to be stained and then examined and which normally requires a specialized pathologist to subjectively interpret. But in this case, the scientists used the center of the tumor, rather than the outer tissue edges, where it is more difficult to identify cancer cells, to confirm that the technique actually worked.

"We compared manual microscopy, looking at the tissue cells on a slide under the microscope, with automated programs, in which we taught a computer how to look at the slides with a microscope, and they correlated pretty well," Blair said. A camera connected to the microscope takes photos of the slide, which are then analyzed for cancer. "We thought that if we automated it, we could teach the computer what to look for and have the pathologist quickly correlate the computer findings with their findings. We're hoping that the method makes the process more objective."

According to Blair, the automated technique is still too slow to be used in real time during breast surgery. Each slide of breast tissue cells takes about two hours to be analyzed, she said, and six slides are typically examined during breast conservation surgery. They would like to reduce the analysis time to as little as five minutes per slide, and based on the results, know whether or not the patient needs further surgery while she is still in the operating room.

As the researchers continue to refine the technique, they will be able to eventually test its use in examining breast tissue margins. Because it is difficult to identify preinvasive cancer cells, she said, they also want to look at cell surface markers and cell nucleus characteristics to better identify cancer cells and help speed up the identification process. The findings are still preliminary, and Blair and her co-workers are planning to conduct a larger, multice
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
sbenowitz@ucsd.edu
619-543-6163
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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