28 February 2019 An innovative non-invasive tool for thyroid cancer screening

First tests on LUCA

LUCA consortium at ICFO

The international LUCA consortium has developed a non-invasive, low-cost device that brings a new solution for thyroid cancer screening. Thyroid cancer is a major health issue for European citizens, with about 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year. The methods used nowadays to detect and diagnose thyroid cancer do not provide physicians with the adequate tools to accurately determine whether the thyroid nodules are benign or malignant. Thus, false positive results cause a high number of unnecessary surgeries, which not only account for major health costs to European hospitals but also produce needless discouragement on patients and their families. In search of improving sensitivity and specificity of screening processes, the four-year EU-funded project Laser and Ultrasound Co-analyzer for Thyroid Nodules (LUCA) has developed an innovative, low-cost device for a more specific thyroid nodule screening and thus better diagnosis.

By combining the traditional multiparametric ultrasound imaging technique with this state-of-the-art photonic approach that obtains measurements of tissue hemodynamics and thyroid nodule composition with the use of light, the LUCA device will enhance the non-invasive characterization of the thyroid tissue, aiming to reduce the amount of uncertainty in the diagnosis of thyroid nodules.

After three years of hard and intensive work, the international and interdisciplinary team of clinical endocrinologists, radiologists, physicists, and engineers, together with industrial partners, have now realized the first LUCA prototype and reached the final phase of their ambitious endeavor, testing the device’s performance in humans.

“With the LUCA prototype ready for clinical testing, we have completed a major milestone in our project. The study in humans will help us to validate and refine the LUCA device. In the end, we expect that LUCA will help to significantly reduce the number of invasive procedures and enable improved clinical decision making” says Turgut Durduran, from ICFO and Scientific Coordinator of LUCA

The first in vivo human tests in January 2019 have validated the capability and performance of the device as well as the quality of the measurements. To accomplish the next step in the validation process, which is introducing LUCA into the routine processes for clinical use, a feasibility study will be conducted on healthy volunteers and patients at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona. Such study will be carried by the LUCA partners from Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) in Barcelona.