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Research team set to begin largest breast cancer clinical trial in Oklahoma

NORMAN, Okla. - A University of Oklahoma and Mercy Hospital research team is set to begin the largest breast cancer clinical trial ever performed in Oklahoma.

The team has developed new breast cancer risk prediction models based on a computer-aided image feature analysis scheme to identify patients who might have cancers that are not visible on mammography.

While many healthcare professionals believe mammography is 80-90 percent accurate, Dr. Alan Hollingsworth at Mercy Hospital’s breast center has his own findings about how much cancer it’s actually missing.

"If you compare mammograms head to head with MRI, it's about half. That's because MRI is not only picking up the ones missed by mammography but is finding them earlier,” Hollingsworth said.

So, he reached out to Dr. Bin Zheng at OU’s Stephenson Research Center with an idea about a unique clinical trial to determine who should qualify for additional MRI screening.

"The mammogram is the 2-dimensional imaging. Although it is very popular for the cancer screen, the sensitivity can be low for the especially young woman like younger than 60 years old,” Zheng said.

Thanks to a grant funding the trial, Zheng and his team have spent the past two years studying new risk prediction models.

"Because they have dense breasts, early cancer is difficult to see because of the tissue overlaps. However, the breast MRI is 3-D imaging,” Zheng said.

So, over the next three years, 4,000 women with mammogram results considered to be normal will be enrolled in the trial. The data will then be sent to Zheng’s team and analyzed to determine high risk.

"If they reach a density score level, then they will be candidates to enroll in the MRI part of the trial, which is all part of the grant. It would be covered by the grant,” Hollingsworth said.

The trial will begin on July 1 at the Mercy Breast Center.