Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Categorising Cancer
30 July 2016

Categorising Cancer

This image is reminiscent of the sorts of pictures made by laying paper onto oil paints floating in water. However, the reality is far less whimsical: it’s a breast cancer biopsy. And the striking colours are the result of algorithms not aesthetics. Biomarker imaging ratio microscopy (BRIM) is a new technology that combines imaging of disease-related molecules (or biomarkers) with computerised calculations that determine the quantity and ratio of those specific markers. The results enable researchers to distinguish aggressive forms of breast cancer from non-aggressive varieties. Patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – a common form of breast cancer – tend to be treated on the assumption that the cancer is invasive so as to be maximally cautious. Not all DCIS cases are aggressive, however, and it's hoped that BRIM might enable doctors to make more informed treatment decisions and possibly spare some women from unnecessarily aggressive treatment.

Written by Ruth Williams

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