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Beckman Laser Institute to improve breast cancer detection by standardizing use of new laser technology

  [ 40 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • October 21, 2003

Irvine, Calif., October 21, 2003 -- The Beckman Laser Institute at UC Irvine will lead a nationwide effort to standardize use of a new technology that improves breast cancer detection, cancer therapy management and the quality of life for cancer patients.

Funded by a $7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, the center will focus on speeding the ongoing development of an experimental laser-based technology called “diffuse optical imaging.” This technology can be used to detect and give detailed information on tumors, and researchers will use it to create laser imaging devices that complement conventional detection methods, such as mammography and MRI.

“Our goal is to transform this cutting-edge science into a versatile tool that can be widely used by the entire cancer research community,” said Bruce J. Tromberg, director of the Beckman Laser Institute and lead investigator in the study. A professor of surgery and biomedical engineering, Tromberg is one of the researchers who pioneered the use of this technology.

To achieve this goal, the center will lead a consortium of researchers from universities, government agencies and medical device companies. Research will focus on creating new instruments specifically designed for detecting and treating cancer. The center will also validate the performance of these new instruments, as well as standardize how images are acquired and analyzed. In addition, the center will facilitate the creation of multi-center clinical trials and form commercial partnerships that advance development of the technology.

“This technology will provide added insight into the origins of breast disease and practical approaches for addressing several key challenges in breast cancer clinical management,” Tromberg said. “This includes detecting early disease, distinguishing between malignant and benign lesions, and understanding the impact of therapies.”

Researchers at the Beckman Laser Institute and elsewhere have already found laser breast imaging to be particularly effective in detecting tumors in the denser breast tissue of pre-menopausal women and those on hormone replacement therapy. Unlike mammography, laser imaging provides detailed tumor information such as blood, fat and water composition as well as a tumor’s oxygen consumption and cellular density.

In previous studies, these factors have been shown by Tromberg and his colleagues to change as breast tumors appear, progress and respond to therapy.

Major institutions participating in the project include UCI, UC San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital, Dartmouth University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Siemens Corporate Research Inc., and the National Institutes of Health.

Located in the UCI College of Medicine, the Beckman Laser Institute is one of the nation’s leading centers dedicated to developing lasers and photonic technologies for biomedical applications. Its programs span from basic and applied research to clinical diagnosis and treatment. For more information, see

The University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked public university dedicated to the principles of research, scholarship and community. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,300 faculty members. The third-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion.

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