Entries in Detection (7)


New Technique Could Detect Pancreatic Cancer Early

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pancreatic cancer is a brutal and deadly disease. Fewer than five percent of patients who are diagnosed with it survive more than five years.

Doctors believe that early detection could increase survival rates. However, the disease has few symptoms that clearly warn patients they have the disease, and blood tests are not very effective at picking it up, detecting only 55 percent of pancreatic cancers.

A group of Japanese researchers has developed a new scientific technique that increases the chances of detecting early stage pancreatic cancers using a blood test.

They developed a technique that can help detect and differentiate cancerous cells from normal cells.

The researchers found that cancer cells produce molecules and proteins in different amounts than normal cells. Eventually, they came up with four molecules that, when observed together, are cancer indicators.

The new mathematical model could increase the odds of detecting early pancreatic cancer to four out of five patients.

This potential breakthrough discovery is still new, and is not widely available in hospital labs.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


FDA Panel Approves Ultrasound Device for Spotting Hidden Breast Tumors

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel Wednesday approved the widespread use of an automated ultrasound machine that would give doctors a detailed image of dense breast tissue, helping them to spot cancerous tumors.

The FDA reviewed the safety and effectiveness of the Automated Breast Ultrasound, a device that uses an automated, Xerox-like system to get ultrasound images of breast tissue. ABUS is intended to screen women with dense breast tissue, for whom traditional mammograms may be inadequate.

"We know that mammography is limited by breast density," said Robert Smith, senior director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society. "Sometimes the glandular tissue is so dense that radiation doesn't penetrate it. You can't see anything."

The dense tissue makes it easy for tumors to hide on traditional mammograms.

Some research estimates that about 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue.

According to ABUS' manufacturer, U-Systems, the device provides 3-D images of breast tissue and is intended for use along with mammograms, not in place of them, and to "increase breast cancer detection" in women with dense breasts who have already received a benign mammogram.

"This panel review, part of the FDA process for assessing new technology, brings us one step closer to an approved adjunctive screening tool for women with dense breasts," said Ron Ho, president and chief executive officer of U-Systems, in a statement.

Some say ultrasound is a valuable tool for finding breast tumors not easily spotted with other tests. Others say greater detection of abnormal spots on ultrasounds would lead to more biopsies but not necessarily better outcomes for women with breast cancer.

Mammograms are the gold standard of breast cancer screenings, and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women over age 50 get a mammogram once every two years to screen for breast cancer. Some groups, such as the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommend that women begin getting mammograms at age 40.

For women at an increased risk of breast cancer, such as those with dense breasts or those who have had breast cancer before, doctors may use additional screening tools, such as MRIs or ultrasound, to check their breasts for problems.

Doctors currently use handheld ultrasound devices to hunt for breast tumors in some patients. But the practice is labor-intensive and depends on ultrasound technicians, who are often few and far between at hospitals around the country.

"One of the major drawbacks of handheld ultrasound is that it takes a lot of time," said Dr. Nagi Khouri, director of breast imaging at the Johns Hopkins Outpatient Center in Baltimore. "Whole breast ultrasound is highly desirable if it can be done with ease with few if any drawbacks."

Research has shown more screening does detect more breast cancer. A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that annual mammograms combined with ultrasound and MRI significantly increased the detection of breast cancer in more than 2,600 women at higher risk of the disease. Mammograms alone detected cancer in 53 percent of the women, and ultrasound detected 33 additional cases. MRIs found nine cases that were not detected by mammogram or ultrasound.

But only 7.4 percent of those women ended up actually having breast cancer. The findings highlighted concerns that increased detection of breast abnormalities may lead to finding more cancer when there is none, called a false positive. High numbers of false positives could result in unnecessary biopsies and other medical procedures without an actual benefit for women's health.

"The fundamental problem is that we have no evidence that detecting these cancers by ultrasound actually saves lives," Dr. Daniel Kopans, a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News last week. "With all the effort that has gone into ultrasound screening over the last decade, it is surprising that no one has done a randomized, controlled trial, which is the only way to know if finding these cancers actually saves lives."

Smith said more research on the use of ultrasound and other supplemental imaging is certainly needed, but researchers may find that the risk of finding something that turns out to be nothing may be worth it for some women.

"It may be that the combination of supplemental imaging has higher false positive rate, but I think we can accept a higher false-positive rate if a woman's risk is higher," he said. "Women have said pretty clearly, whatever the risk of a false positive is, they place a higher priority on finding breast cancer early."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


A New Way to Detect Alzheimer’s?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new drug may help doctors give patients suffering from Alzheimer’s-like symptoms some clarity they desperately want: a conclusive diagnosis.

On Friday, the FDA approved Eli Lily’s Amyvid to help doctors determine whether patients have Alzheimer’s disease.

Until now, a definitive Alzheimer’s diagnosis has only been possible after a patient has already died since the only known method of detection involves cutting into the brain and taking samples to look for the presence of a protein called amyloid. Doctors are left to base their diagnoses on symptoms of Alzheimer’s alone.

The new drug acts by binding to amyloid plaques in the brain, allowing them to be captured in a type of imaging test called a PET scan.

“In my opinion this is very big news,” Dr. Michael Weiner, director for the Center of Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. “Now for the first time, using this agent, we can identify the amyloid plaques in the brain of living people."

“This allows us to determine who has Alzheimer’s disease in their brain and who does not,” he said.

The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia has doubled in the last few decades; an estimated 5.4 million Americans currently live with the disease. Alzheimer’s is currently the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and mortality rates are on the rise.

While this new drug may help doctors identify patients who may have Alzheimer’s disease, there is some debate as to how useful the information revealed by the use of the drug will be.

Part of the problem, says Dr. Clifford Saper, chairman of Neurology and Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, is that most people older than 80 have some level of amyloid in their brains, and the amount of amyloid present doesn’t necessarily indicate whether the patient has the disease or not.

Plus, he added, practical applications are still a pipe dream, at least for now.

“There is no change in the care of most patients based upon knowing this information, as we have no specific treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,” he says.

The prevalence of amyloid in the brains of many elderly people may also lead to a new flood of positive scans -- which in turn may lead to over-diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

“[Amyvid will] raise false hope and increase costs,” says Dr. Peter Whitehouse, a professor of neurology at Case Western University.

With spending on Alzheimer’s disease already topping $130 billion annually by Medicare and Medicaid alone, the question remains whether government or private insurers will pay for the Amyvid diagnostic test since it comes with a significant price tag.

Nevertheless, while there are currently no treatments shown to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s, there is clinical testing underway now for several potential treatments. Once one becomes available, amyloid imaging could help doctors better select patients for treatment and to monitor effectiveness. In fact, Amyvid is already being used for these purposes in ongoing clinical research.

But until new treatment options become available, Amyvid’s use will likely be limited to helping doctors rule out Alzheimer’s disease in patients with dementia.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


California Clinic Offers CT Scan as 'Gift of Health'

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.) -- With the holidays just around the corner, a Beverly Hills clinic is selling "the gift of health": a computed tomography, or CT, scan they believe could help lead to early identification of heart or cancer problems.

Beyond valet parking and a spa-like atmosphere complete with bamboo floors and natural light, the gift's $1,200 price tag includes a report detailing any abnormal findings from the full-body scan -- from lumps and nodules to blood vessel irregularities.

"Screening is extremely important, and we think everyone should do it," said Dr. Ari Gabayan of the Beverly Hills Cancer Center, a "boutique" operation associated with Optima Diagnostic Imaging. "The whole idea is to catch things early before they become a problem."

But some experts say the risks of overscreening outweigh the benefits.

"This is a terrific gift to the financial health of the clinic," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.  "If getting screening CT scans or MRIs was really thought to be useful and cost effective, then it would be recommended by medical communities."

A CT scan is a useful diagnostic tool when a patient has a certain set of symptoms and risk factors, said Schaffner.

"But going out and doing a lot of testing when someone is not symptomatic -- other than the screening tests recommended by professional societies such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force -- cannot be recommended as a gift of health," he said.

Some hospitals are using CT scans to screen for lung cancer in heavy smokers. But there is mounting evidence that overscreening in the general population can lead to anxiety-provoking false positives -- a diagnosis of cancer when there is none -- and even unnecessary surgery.

"The default is to assume that screening must be good; catching something early must be good," said James Raftery of the University of Southampton, U.K., author of a study on breast cancer screening published Thursday in BMJ. "But if a woman has an unnecessary mastectomy or chemotherapy or radiation, that's a tragedy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Can Hairstylists Help Detect Skin Cancer?

George Doyle/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- You could be thanking your hairstylist for a heck of a lot more than a stylish new ‘do. A new study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that hair professionals often examine their clients’ scalp, neck and face in search of hard-to-see moles and lesions that could be signs of cancer, and they may be able to play an integral part in skin cancer screenings.

“Hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisers for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon,” Alan Geller of the Harvard School of Public Health wrote in the report.

As reported by MedPage Today, study authors examined surveys filled out by 203 hairstylists in the Houston area. They found that about 37 percent of the stylists said they have looked at more than half their customers’ scalp for possible skin problems. Nearly 60 percent said they had recommended a client visit a skin doctor on at least one occasion.

Stylists have a unique perspective of others’ scalps and necks, Geller noted, and it is this viewpoint that could contribute to the prevention of skin cancer and melanoma, which killed more than 8,000 people in the U.S. in 2007.

While few of the hairdressers who filled out the survey had an education in skin cancer screening, more than half said they were very willing to participate in a skin cancer education program.

“This study provides evidence that hair professionals are currently acting as lay health advisors for skin cancer detection and prevention and are willing to become more involved in skin cancer education in the salon,” authors wrote. “Future research should focus on creating a program that provides hair professionals with expert training and effective health communication tools to become confident and skilled lay skin cancer educators.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA & DOE: 'No Radiation Levels of Concern' Detected in the US -- A network of monitors strategically placed around the country to detect radiation levels have not produced results of concern, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The network, called RadNet, is designed to inform scientists in near real-time of elevated levels of radiation, the EPA says.  The U.S Department of Energy also has radiation monitoring equipment at facilities around the country which, the agency says, has not detected radiation levels that should concern Americans.

On Friday, the EPA said that one of the monitoring stations in Sacremento, Calif. detected "minuscule" levels of the radioactive isotope zenon-133, which is consistent with the radiation released from the Fukushima reactors in Japan. 

However, EPA officials say the amount of radiation detected in Sacremento is "one-millionth of the dose rate that a person normally receives from rocks, bricks, the sun and other natural background resources."

The EPA also said in a joint statement with the Department of Energy that this kind of reading is compatible with their expectations in the wake of Japan's tragedy, and should be expected in the coming days.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Simple Blood Test to Detect Cancer?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(BOSTON) -- Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and health giant Johnson & Johnson are combining efforts to streamline a simple blood test that may be able to identify cancer cells in the blood stream of patients already diagnosed with a specific type of cancer.

But many experts question what place, if any, this test will have in the world of cancer prevention, early detection or even treatment.

The partnership is part of a nearly $30 million endeavor funded by Johnson & Johnson company Veridex and the advocacy group Stand Up to Cancer to develop and refine technology that will be able to accurately and quickly detect and analyze circulating tumor cells, the company said Monday.

Circulating tumor cells are a rare form of free-flowing cancer cells detached from the smallest of tumors and can be found at extremely low levels in the blood stream.

"For every one tumor cell in the blood there's over a billion normal blood cells in the circulation. So that's the big challenge for developing a test that can pull out one in a billion cells," said Dr. Daniel Haber, director of the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

CTC technology, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2004, is widely used in cancer centers to monitor a patient's response to treatment. But researchers now hope to expand its use to create a faster automated version that will analyze genetic components of a tumor and ultimately guide oncologists to personalize cancer treatments for patients.

"Harnessing the information contained in these cells in an in vitro clinical setting could enable tools to help select treatment and monitor how patients are responding," said Robert McCormack, head of technology innovation and strategy at Veridex.

Some cancer experts agreed the technology may be able to track some patients' cancer progression.

"It can help oncologists determine how well the drugs are working to kill cancer cells and it potentially could tell if the tumor returns at a later time," said Dr. Sarah Blair, associate professor of surgery in the division of surgical oncology at University of California San Diego.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio