Alex Walsh, a graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University, and colleagues reported the first potentially noninvasive technique that can distinguish breast cancer subtypes accurately and provide early breast cancer detection as well as monitor treatment in the Oct. 15, 2013, issue of the journal Cancer Research.
The technique called optical metabolic imaging (OMI) takes advantage of the differences in metabolic activity in cancer cells and normal cells.
The key to the ability to detect subtypes of breast cancer and the early detection of breast cancer is the natural fluorescence of cellular metabolites called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD).
Both FAD and NADH display different frequencies of fluorescence that correlate to the different types of breast cancer. OMI can differentiate between estrogen receptor-positive, estrogen receptor-negative, HER2-positive, and HER2-negative breast cancer cells.
The standard clinical metabolic imaging technique, FDG-PET (fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography), cannot measure the differences in response to breast cancer treatment with trastuzumab that optical metabolic imaging can.
OMI offers an unprecedented level of accuracy in finding breast cancer at the earliest stages and tracking the effect of treatment more accurately than has ever been done before. The technique requires a biopsy sample at present but Walsh expects to develop a noninvasive methodology.