Breast lumpectomy for breast CA is an imprecise procedure that too often results in cancerous tissue being left behind. About a quarter of patients have to come back and go through the surgery yet again.
This is in large part due to the fact that guidewires are the standard way to point to the location of a tumor. While guidewires are better than nothing, they are crude and not very precise. Radioactive seeds are another option, but they have safety concerns and radio-based technologies are limited in their targeting and they can interfere with other equipment.
Engineers at Boston University have now developed an optoacoustic system that doesn’t rely on guidewires, radiation, or radio waves to localize a tumor with a great level of accuracy. Their AcouStar technology uses an optical fiber as the guidewire, but it’s used to send short pulses of laser light into the tumor. The light pulses heat and expand the tumor tissue, generating ultrasound waves that propagate from the tumor. Three ultrasound detecting patches attached to the skin of the breast allow the system to triangulate the location of where the ultrasound waves are coming from, and therefore the location of the tumor.
The system so far has been tried on a cadaver, with very promising results. Next steps will involve further testing and clinical trials, but the technology is already creating a lot of hope that lumpectomies can be made more precise and revision surgeries will become a rarity.
VibroniX, an Indiana firm, is now working toward commercializing the technology.