National News

Oklahoma's largest breast cancer clinical trial begins

Posted June 20, 2017 3:21 p.m. EDT

— By Eriech Tapia Staff Writer Oklahoma's largest ever breast cancer research trial is set to begin in July, with researchers hoping to find cancers that a mammogram cannot detect. Over the next three-years, the trial will bring in 4,000 women who have had a mammogram that was interpreted as normal, according to guidelines used by the Mercy Breast Center in Oklahoma City. "We miss the majority of women who are heading straight towards having breast cancer," said Alan Hollingsworth, medical director of the center. "It is going to be a huge undertaking." Trials will begin July 1. The researchers have developed a new breast cancer risk-prediction model based on computer-aided image analysis of certain breast features. The new model was created after 2,000 images were reviewed and an image analysis system was developed to see minor changes in breast tissue. The research model aims to identify women who are excluded from current breast magnetic resonance imaging guidelines, but have a higher risk of developing hidden cancers that can be detected by MRI. Researchers also will evaluate women with elevated lifetime cancer risks that cannot easily be detected by a regular mammogram. Lethal breast cancer is more common in younger women, mostly under 50, according to Bin Zheng, one of the researchers on the project and a member of the Stephenson Cancer Center. That's because dense breast tissue makes detecting cancer more difficult, Zheng said. He said the research will benefit many younger women. Those selected will have a mammogram that will be sent for analysis to researchers at the University of Oklahoma Advanced Cancer Imaging Laboratory. "The whole purpose is to make mammograms more efficient," Hollingsworth said. Mammograms will be given a risk score. If the score is high, the candidate will be selected for future tests, including an MRI. "MRIs have been kept to high-risk people, but we want to create this system and bring it to the general population," Hollingsworth said. Between 200 and 400 patients of the original 4,000 could qualify for a breast MRI, Hollingsworth said. Costs of MRIs can run upward of $3,000, which he said would be impractical for large portions of the general population. Zheng along with another researcher from the OU Gallogly College of Engineering, paired up with Hollingsworth on the research. "The goal is to significantly increase cancer detection of breast MRI screenings based on the quantitative imaging markers," said Zheng. The two wanted to develop and validate the possible new risk model for identifying women who are excluded from the current guidelines used by the industry. Current mammogram screenings are looked over by a doctor and then by a computer analyses which can catch some abnormalities. The researchers believe the new system could catch even more subtle changes. The research is being paid for by a five-year $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. To learn more about the clinical trial, call 405-936-5455.