Aus scientists working on new approach to fight breast cancer

Melbourne: A research initiative by Australian scientists could lead to more women beating breast cancer by using a new method of assessing density of breast tissue, a predictor of lifetime risk of the disease.

The density of breast tissue will be measured by microwave technology under the new research initiative.

A partnership between the University of Sydney`s Charles Perkins Centre and Agilent Technologies, a company that uses imaging tools including elemental bio-imaging and microwave imaging, that will allow researchers to study breast tissue samples differently to find a new method of assessing breast density, a predictor of lifetime breast cancer risk.

Breast tissue samples for the study will be supplied through the Sydney Breast Cancer Network tissue bank, according to a `Herald sun` report.

There will be 300 samples collected, 200 from breast reduction surgery patients without breast cancer and 100 from cancer surgery patients at a distance from the site of the tumour.

Along with the samples will be a recent mammographic image.

Medical Imaging Optimisation and Perception Group principal investigator, Elaine Ryan, said breast density was linked to the lifetime risk of women getting breast cancer.

"We`re trying to use microwaves to work out what it is about the tissue that makes it more dense," Ryan said, adding that "We`ll put a range of frequency waves through the breast
tissue and depending on how easily it passes through the tissue you can determine what it`s composed of, its cellular structure and then we can compare that to the mammogram."

Ryan said the research could be used to develop a non-invasive way to predict breast cancer risk.

She said there were drawbacks to mammograms, which weren`t effective on younger women because of the composition of their breasts.

"With mammograms, we`re taking a volume of breast tissue and condensing it to get a 2D image. We`re missing the extra dimension," she said.