Pre-clinical studies use specialised ultrasound to detect presence of cancer

From the air, the twists and turns of rivers can easily be seen. In the body, however, tracing the twists and turns of blood vessels is difficult, but important. Vessel ‘bendiness’ can indicate the presence and progression of cancer.
This principle led UNC scientists to a new method of using a high-resolution ultrasound to identify early tumours in pre-clinical studies. The method, based on vessel bendiness or ‘tortuosity,’ potentially offers an inexpensive, non-invasive and fast method to detect cancer that could someday help doctors identify cancers when tumours are less than a centimetre in size.
Paul Dayton, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering explains, ‘The correlation between vessel tortuosity and cancer is well-established. What’s new about our finding is that we can visualise these vessels in minutes with a very quick scan, using very inexpensive imaging methods.’ Dr. Dayton is a member of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The UNC team used a new high-resolution ultrasound method, called ‘acoustic angiography,’ with an intravascular contrast agent that allowed them to acquire images of only the blood vessels. ‘Unlike current clinical ‘grayscale’ ultrasound, this method filters out all tissue signals, so we can see small blood vessels clearly.’ says Dayton.
‘Our results showed a definitive difference between vessels within and surrounding tumours versus those associated with normal healthy vasculature. The limitation that we must now address is that our method works only for tumours at a shallow depth into tissue, such as melanomas or thyroid cancer. Our next studies will focus on this imaging-depth issue as well as evaluating the ability of this technology to determine a tumour