Karmanos doctors at work on new breast cancer screening tool
1:41 PM, May 21, 2010
(WXYZ) - - The mammogram is an essential screening tool to help detect
breast cancer at the earliest, most treatable stage.
But now, doctors at Karmanos Cancer Institute are working on a
new screening tool that may have several advantages over
Pamela Haddox believes in mammograms. In 2008, a mammogram
helped confirm that a lump in her breast was indeed cancer.
But now she’s a bigger fan of a new device called SoftVue
which uses ultrasound to look for suspicious lesions.
She says, “A mammogram is like putting your breast in a
vice, I would much rather put it in a tank full of water with no
The patient lies on a bed with a hole that allows her breast to
be suspended into a tank of warm water. An ultrasound ring is
raised to surround the breast and provide detailed
three-dimensional images using sound waves.
Dr. Peter John Littrup is one of the inventors. He says the
mammogram is an extremely valuable tool, but the SoftVue has some
real advantages, “It has no compression, so some women have a
little bit of discomfort with the yearly exam and stay away from
it, secondly you can actually see through dense breasts.”
Which has been a problem with mammograms. And there is no
radiation. That means patients like Pamela, who needed frequent
screening during her treatment, can avoid a lot of radiation and a
lot of the expense of an MRI
The SoftVue has been in development for ten years. This one is
the only prototype. So far it has detected the same percentage of
cancers as traditional screening devices – with one
According to Dr. Littrup, “It can do a much better job of
discriminating whether a spot you find is cancer or not. That has
big implications for reducing a lot of these unnecessary
The next step is for a commercial version of the SoftVue to be
made so it can go to the FDA for approval.
Dr. Littrup says he’s anticipating FDA approval within a
year to 18 months and then to go to multi-center trials to confirm
the positive findings from the initial clinical studies involving
300 women here in Detroit.
The development process has been a long and expensive one with
funding from a number of sources including the Susan G. Komen Race
for the Cure.
For patients like Pamela, it’s worth every penny.
“If you gave me the option of coming to do this, I’m
going to be the first one in line.”