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Improving Breast Cancer Detection

Tissue Analysis, Collaboration Aims to Improve Breast Cancer Detection

By applying physics to the 3D structure of breast tissue, a University of Maine researcher hopes to advance early cancer detection.

Andre Khalil uses mathematical analysis techniques to study the morphology and structure of cancerous and precancerous lesions to advance early breast cancer detection. Now an $83,000 grant from the Maine Cancer Foundation will be used to help develop a tissue analysis process called 3DMammoComp to improve early detection of breast cancer.

The grant will be used to partner with sophisticated medical laboratories around the country. In particular, Khalil hopes to access libraries of 3D mammographic images taken through tomosynthesis, a new breast-imaging technique recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Use of 3D imaging through tomosynthesis is a more precise way of presenting images of the breast and reducing the number of false positives that can occur with 2D mammography. The cutting-edge equipment needed to produce those detailed images is expensive, up to several million dollars in some cases. Based on his success with earlier 2D mammogram analysis, Khalil hopes labs like one at Massachusetts General Hospital, which have that new imaging equipment, will share 3D tomosynthesis data with him.

“We’d like to scan the breast and determine which regions are the ones that we find, based on physics, are prone to the eventual apparition of tumors,” says Khalil, a UMaine associate professor of mathematics, and cooperating associate professor of physics and computing and information sciences.

“The question we’re asking is, in this background, are certain regions possibly prone to development of the tumor? If we can show that, we’re not talking about early detection any more, we’re looking at predetection,” he says.

Khalil is assisted in the newest project by undergraduate and graduate students, including Kendra Batchelder, a UMaine master’s student in mathematics, and a team of research associates.

Khalil, also a collaborator with the Chromatin and Genome Research Group at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon in France, uses the wavelet transform modulus maxima (WTMM) method — an image and signal processing technology in astrophysics and biomedicine. In addition to his research on breast cancer, he has used the WTMM method to study the structure of the interstellar medium in our galaxy, cell nucleus architecture, soft-tissue in-growth into artificial bone implants, and muscle development.

Contact: George Manlove, (207) 581-3756


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