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Cancer Res. 2002 Sep 15;62(18):5375-80.

Identifying microcalcifications in benign and malignant breast lesions by probing differences in their chemical composition using Raman spectroscopy.

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  • 1G. R. Harrison Spectroscopy Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.


We have applied Raman spectroscopy to analyze the chemical composition of microcalcifications occurring in benign and malignant lesions in the human breast. Microcalcifications were initially separated into two categories based on their Raman spectrum: type I, calcium oxalate dihydrate, and type II, calcium hydroxyapatite. Type I microcalcifications were diagnosed as benign, whereas type II were subdivided into benign and malignant categories using principal component analysis, a statistical technique. Although type II microcalcifications are primarily composed of calcium hydroxyapatite, they also contain trace amounts of several biological impurities. Using principal component analysis, we were able to highlight subtle chemical differences in type II microcalcifications that correlate with breast disease. On the basis of these results, we believe that type II microcalcifications formed in benign ducts typically contain a larger amount of calcium carbonate and a smaller amount of protein than those formed in malignant ducts. Using this diagnostic strategy, we were able to distinguish microcalcifications occurring in benign and malignant ducts with a sensitivity of 88% and a specificity of 93%. This is a significant improvement over current X-ray mammography techniques, which are unable to reliably differentiate microcalcifications in benign and malignant breast lesions.

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