Designing Ultrasound Image Analysis Techniques for DC101-Treated Tumors in Mice; Impact of Racial Backgrounds on Disparate Breast Cancer Mortality Rates

Ali, Akbar, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Price, Richard, EN-Biomed Engr Dept, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Over the years, breast cancer has persisted as the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women while also being the second leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States. However, mortality rates differ greatly amongst women of different racial backgrounds, namely African-American women versus Caucasian women, due to a variety of factors such as accessibility to cancer screening services, lack of clinics present in economically disadvantaged regions, etc. These effects compound greatly as early diagnosis is often crucial for successful treatment of cancer, and the underuse of such services by certain social groups increases the chances of mortalities. Currently, there are not many systemic options available that can help combat this inequality, and this issue continues to impact women in disparate rates throughout the nation.

Researching and testing various novel treatments for breast cancer typically involves the usage of breast cancer cell lines in mice. A major problem that persists, however, is the unnatural growth of blood vessels around a tumor and how this diminishes the effects of drug delivery. One promising avenue involves the usage of anti-angiogenic drug delivery which reduces the abnormal proliferation of blood vessels around a tumor, thus allowing for more efficient delivery of subsequent chemotherapeutic agents. In turn, this could make current chemotherapy options more effective and cheaper while also increasing accessibility. However, at present, there are very few modeling techniques available which can effectively visualize the surrounding blood vessels of a tumor, and the subsequent normalization observed from drug delivery.

The technical paper and tightly coupled STS research project were intended to directly address both issues discussed above. The goal of the former was to improve current treatment options for breast cancer by aiding in the development of pulsing sequences for anti-angiogenic treated tumors compared to regular tumors. This was accomplished by improving upon a pre-existing imaging software to allow for better visualization of the network of blood vessels. Furthermore, a 3D modeling procedure was established whereby cross-sectional images of a tumor’s vasculature can be taken and modeled to provide a clearer physical view of the tumor and aid in further research of vasculature normalization. However, developing such a technology does not mean that it will necessarily be equally available to all women. As already discussed, the racial backgrounds of women heavily impact the level of access they will have to such treatment options. As such, the paired STS project was intended to analyze the socio-technical system in which different social groups interpret and adopt screening technologies in varying ways, thus leading to disparate mortality rates. After investigating the endogenous and exogenous factors that were contributing to this, a wide range of solutions were proposed that will aid in mitigating these factors. By removing barriers and increasing trust in these social groups, screening technologies will come to be perceived in a more positive light which will lead to increased usage and thus lessened mortalities as time goes on.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Breast cancer, DC101, Ultrasound, Racial Disparities, Anti-angiogenesis

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering

Technical Advisor: Richard J. Price

STS Advisor: Travis Elliott

Technical Team Members: Anand Kanumuru, Gabriel Villarroel

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