Early cancer screening with modern technology has markedly improved the detection of small neoplasms, or abnormal growths, that were previously impossible to identify. However the likelihood that these early detected neoplasms will progress to invasive metastatic cancer is unknown. These abnormalities are often treated as though they will potentially become invasive cancer which forces patients to undergo harsh therapeutic regimens, including chemotherapy and surgery, when potentially no treatment is required at all.
Ductal carcinoma in situ is one example of this phenomenon and describes a condition where abnormal cells are detected within the milk ducts of the breast and have not spread to the surrounding tissue. DCIS is the most common type of breast cancer diagnosed but can be readily identified at a very early stage with modern technology and screening programs. Most women diagnosed with DCIS typically undergo treatments similar to those used to treat early-detected invasive breast cancer including breast-conserving surgery, also known as partial mastectomy, and radiation therapy. There is growing concern that many of these patients, perhaps as much as a quarter of those diagnosed, would be better off with long-term observation and no anti-cancer treatment at all.
The problem is that there is currently no definitive way to determine which cases will remain benign and which will become invasive cancer. As a result the current standards of practice necessitate aggressively treating all cases of DCIS and may be forcing tens of thousands of women in the United States alone to needlessly endure life-changing and potentially dangerous therapies.
New method for identifying neoplasms that will develop into invasive cancer
The technology is a procedure for distinguishing neoplasms that will remain indolent from those that have a high potential for progressing into invasive or life-threatening cancer. The technology uses non-invasive methods to make this determination and could help pathologists determine whether or not a detected neoplasm should be treated or simply observed. The technology is being tested for DCIS, but may also be applicable to other tissues and cancer types.
- Cancer diagnostics
- Determining risk of detected neoplasms progressing into invasive or metastatic cancer
- Allows determination of those cancers that will remain benign from those that will become invasive
- Helps avoid unnecessary procedures and improve patient quality of life
- Uses medically non-invasive methods