The study demonstrating that an optical technique known as Raman spectroscopy can be using to differentiate between benign and cancerous thyroid cells. As its results showing that Raman spectroscopy could be developing into a new optical modality; that can help avoid invasive procedures used to diagnose thyroid cancer by providing biochemical information that is not currently accessible.
A lump or nodule in the neck is a common symptom of thyroid cancer. However, most thyroid nodules are not cancerous. Ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration biopsies are typically using to check for cancer by inserting a thin needle into the nodule to obtain cells; that are preparing on a microscope slide, staining and analyzing by a pathologist. For about 15 to 30% of cases, the pathologist cannot determine whether cells acquiring from the biopsy are benign or malignant.
Thyroid cancer diagnosis
For these cases, a surgical procedure knowing as a thyroidectomy is requiring to remove tissue; which provides more information for a more accurate diagnosis. Raman spectroscopy as a possible solution because it is a non-invasive technique that requires no sample preparation or staining to determine subtle differences in the molecular composition of complex samples such as cells.
As the researchers used a line-scan Raman microscope; that allowed them to rapidly acquire Raman signals from an entire cell volume. This allowed them to more accurately capture the chemical composition of entire cells comparing to other approaches; that acquire a Raman spectrum from only part of a cell’s volume. Multivariate statistical methods and classification methods were then used to analyze the Raman data and classify the cells in an objective, unbiased manner.
Hyperspectral Raman microscopy
These preliminary results are exciting because they involve single cells from human clinical samples; but more work will need to be done to take this from a research project to final clinical use. However, we will need to increase both the number of cells; and number of patients studied to confirm the accuracy of the Raman technique method. The use of line-scan hyperspectral Raman microscopy; in combination with multivariate statistical analyses for identifation
In addition to testing it on more cells and patients; the researchers also need to apply the technique to cells obtained with a fine needle aspiration; and test it on samples for which the pathologist can not determine if the cells are benign or cancerous. They also want to develop an automated prototype system that can perform the Raman measurements; and analysis with minimal human intervention.