Cancer-catching algorithm being developed

Sarah Wiedersehn
(Australian Associated Press)

A new algorithm being developed by Australian scientists offers hope of catching and killing cancer cells before they spread throughout the body often with deadly consequences.

The software developed at the CSIRO could significantly improve the detection of angiogenesis – the development of new blood vessels that enables cancer to metastasise.

Earlier detection of blood vessel growth may therefore lead to a faster diagnosis of malignant tumour growth.

Excited by its development, Cancer Council Australia CEO Professor Sanchia Aranda says the capacity of cancers to create their own blood vessels (angiogenesis) is a critical feature of how the disease spreads.

But what isn’t known is how this happens, she said.

“The hope is that through improved understanding, new opportunities to disrupt angiogenesis will be identified and open pathways to new treatments.

“If we can stop cancers spreading we can reduce the number of people who die from the disease.”

Researchers at the CSIRO’s Data 61 innovation group teamed up with researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences to produce high-resolution 3D images of the brains and livers of mice at various stages of cancer growth.

Using the detailed images, the team developed a robust algorithm to generate an accurate representation of the brain’s vascular system, preserving the length and shape information of the blood vessel and its branches.

Until now, images of blood vessel structure taken from high-resolution imaging have only been able to produce a skeleton-like view of blood vessels which provided limited detail and accuracy.

“Our robust algorithms for the early detection and quantification of angiogenesis could potentially be a great step forward in the detection and treatment of cancer,” said lead researcher Dr Dadong Wang.

“While there is great interest in taking these findings further, there is still a long way to go before this new development can be applied to human patients.

“But we are very hopeful, and currently looking for collaborators and partners to take the technology to the next stage,” he said.


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