Early diagnosis of malignant tumours and improved success rates of treatment is now possible thanks to a new algorithm that detects the early formation of blood vessels.
CSIRO’s Data61 researchers are developing the software tool.
The development of new blood vessels – angiogenesis – is known to precede the growth of cancers. Earlier detection of this blood vessel growth may lead to a faster diagnosis of malignant tumour growth, which is a key factor in successful treatment and patient survival.
In the study, Data61 researchers teamed up with researchers at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences to produce images of the brains and livers of mice at various stages of cancer growth.
The researchers analysed 26 high-resolution 3D micro-CT images from 26 mice, produced by the Shanghai Synchrotron Radiation Facility (SSRF). Using the images, the team developed an algorithm to generate an accurate representation of the vasculature, preserving the length and shape information of the blood vessel and its branches.
This new development was done using a technique called end-point constraints. End-points are critical in preserving the geometrical features of new blood vessels, including branching patterns and the lengths of terminal vessels. Until now, images of blood vessel structure taken from high-resolution imaging have only been able to produce a skeletonised view of blood vessel structure which provided limited detail and accuracy.
Anti-angiogenesis treatment aims at preventing cancers from growing blood vessels. The ability to continuously monitor subtle changes in blood vessels over time is essential, especially since patients might react to anti-angiogenesis treatment differently.
The new software means researchers can measure subtle changes in the blood vessels – including the number and length of the blood vessel branches – and produce significantly clearer skeletons of the vasculature than previously possible.