28 January 2016 Thyroid cancer screening

Thyroid measurement protocol and results of a pathology case for total hemoglobin concentration and blood flow index

Pioneering research in the application of diffuse optics for precise characterization and diagnosis Current standard thyroid screening methods - ultrasound and fine needle aspiration biopsy - are limited in sensitivity and specificity, thus leading to a high number of false positives, while the incidence of thyroid cancer is increasing more rapidly than any other cancer type in the modern world. Therefore, an initial precise characterization and diagnosis of the thyroid nodule is critical in order to decide on the course of action.

Researchers Claus Lindner and Parisa Farzam in the Medical Optics research group led by ICREA Prof at ICFO Turgut Durduran, in collaboration with Mireia Mora and Mattia Squarcia of Hospital Clínic Barcelona and the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) have published a study in the journal PLOS ONE entitled “Diffuse Optical Characterization of the Healthy Human Thyroid Tissue and Two Pathological Case Studies” in which they present pioneering research in the application of diffuse optics on the human thyroid, opening the door for improved thyroid cancer screening.

Based on the non-invasive characterization of optical and hemodynamic properties in healthy (n = 22) and pathological (n = 2) human thyroid tissue by a combination of time-resolved and diffuse correlation spectroscopy the researchers were able to distinguish between healthy and nodule tissue (as well as between thyroid and surrounding muscle tissue). The researchers converted the recorded optical properties into physiological parameters, such as total hemoglobin concentrations, oxygen saturations and blood flow information. From the application of the above-mentioned diffuse optical techniques on several locations on the human neck they were able to scan around the neck and map the thyroid lobes. Cases with nodules showed a significantly increased vasculature in the infected locations with total hemoglobin concentrations (THC) of 226.5 µM and a blood flow index (BFI) of 62.8 x 10-9 cm2/s opposed to the healthy value range of THC = 131.9 - 144.8 µM and BFI = 13.7 - 16.0 x 10-9 cm2/s. The initial characterization of the healthy and pathologic human thyroid tissue lays the ground work for the future investigation on the use of diffuse optics in thyroid cancer screening and the improvement in specificity and sensitivity.