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Laser and Ultrasound Co-Analyzer for thyroid nodules (LUCA)
Start date: Feb 1, 2016, End date: Jan 31, 2020 PROJECT  FINISHED 

This is a trans-disciplinary project that joins endocrinologists (“end-users”), radiologists (“end-users”), physicists who are experts in medical photonics, engineers who are experts in photonics and ultrasonics and the industry to work towards a concentrated goal - to produce a novel, point-of-care, low-cost, screening device that combines two photonics systems (near-infrared diffuse correlation spectroscopy (DCS) and time-resolved spectroscopy (TRS)) with a multi-modal ultrasound (US) system and a probe that enables multi-modal data acquisition for the screening of thyroid nodules (TN) for thyroid cancer (TC). TN are a common pathology having a prevalence of palpable nodules around 5% in women and 1% in men, that increases to 19-76% with the use of neck US. In screening thyroid nodules, to exclude thyroid cancer which occurs in 5-15% of TN, the first step is the US followed by fine needle aspiration biopsy (FNAB) of suspicious nodules. The sensitivity and specificity of this process in thyroid cancer are limited, with a large number of non-diagnostic and false positive results that lead to unnecessary surgeries. A reduction in the number of surgeries with a point-of-care diagnostic procedure would have an important socio-economic impact, diminishing the number of thyroidectomies and the associated comorbidities. This implies savings of millions of euros per year. Evidence shows that multi-modal approaches that include hemodynamic information leads to better specificity while each modality on its own fails. We hypothesize that a new optical-ultrasound probe and integrated system enabled by the development of novel, key enabling photonic components and sub-systems to provide synergetic information on tissue morphology, composition and function will have a large impact in this field. Our action is directed by end-users who participate in the proposal and will be exploited by the industrial partners who cover the whole value-chain.
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