Clinical trial to study diagnosing benefits of 3-D mammography

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A new clinical trial funded by the National Cancer Institute to compare two types of digital mammography for breast cancer screening now is enrolling healthy women who are already planning to get routine mammograms.

Researchers working on the Tomosynthesis Mammographic Imaging Screening Trial hope to compare 2-D with 3-D mammograms and determine which one best finds breast cancers. ECOG-ACRIN, a scientific organization that designs and conducts cancer research initiatives, is leading the trial.

The goal is to get 165,000 participants so researchers can collect data and learn how to most effectively screen for breast cancer, and then submit findings to physicians so they can follow best practices. The trial also involves building a biorepository for research on genetic markers for breast cancer by asking participants to submit blood samples and buccal cells containing DNA from a swab inside the mouth.

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Mammography is so prevalent that it has been decades since a large-scale randomized trial has been done, says Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, director of the community oncology research program at the National Cancer Institute. The new trial will fill in gaps in knowledge about the two types of digital mammography imaging.

While 3-D mammography likely will detect more findings requiring follow up care, it could lead to more procedures and treatments, but researchers hope to shed light on whether 3-D actually reduces the risk of developing advanced, harder-to-treat cancer.

As Etta Pisano, MD, vice chair of research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School, asks, “If a new screening technology does not reduce the numbers of advanced, life-threatening cancers, then are we really improving screening for breast cancer?”

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