Thyroid cancer is a major and growing health challenge with around three hundred thousand new cases diagnosed worldwide annually. Current methods do not provide sufficient support to surgeons in their decision on the appropriate course of action, which leads to significant number of unnecessary surgeries and a reduced quality of life for patients. This calls for an increased sensitivity and specificity of the conventionally applied screening process.
The new EU Laser and Ultrasound Co-analyzer for Thyroid Nodules (LUCA) project aims to develop a new, non-invasive low-cost device that will provide doctors with enhanced information required to provide better and more specific results in thyroid nodule screening and enable better diagnosis.“The device combines ultrasound and near-infrared diffuse optical technologies in a single device and a single probe. By combining information about tissue hemodynamics, chemical constitution as well as anatomy, it will overcome the shortcomings of present techniques while screening for malignant thyroid nodules. If successful, this will save millions of euros over the coming decades and improve the lives of millions of Europeans”, says Prof. Turgut Durduran from the ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences, Scientific coordinator of LUCA.
A multidisciplinary team made up of eight partners, which includes clinical endocrinologists, radiologists, physicists, engineers and industry players, has recently started this ambitious research project, divided into two main phases. Phase 1 will be focused on the development and construction of device components while phase 2 will see the implementation and clinical validation of the LUCA demonstrator.
“A new tool used concurrently with thyroid ultrasound may provide additional information to help us distinguish between benign and malignant nodules. This would would have an important socio-economic impact, diminishing the number of unnecessary surgeries and the associated comorbidities as well as improving the quality of life of the patients”, comments Mireia Mora from Hospital Clinic Provincial Barcelona and Consorci Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August PI I Sunyer (IDIBAPS). The LUCA device has the potential to represent a very innovative tool for other types of cancer diagnosis, screening and therapy monitoring in areas of the body accessible to both ultrasound and near-infrared diffuse optical technologies. Therefore, LUCA is expected to have a significant impact on the field of thyroid cancer but also additional areas of cancer screening.