Evaluation of classification strategies using quantitative ultrasound markers and a thyroid cancer rodent model
Currently, the evaluation of thyroid cancer relies on the use of fine-needle aspiration biopsy, as non-invasive imaging methods do not provide sufficient levels of accuracy for the diagnosis of this disease. In this study, the potential of quantitative ultrasound methods for characterization of thyroid tissues was studied using a rodent model ex vivo. A high-frequency ultrasonic scanning system (40 MHz) was used to scan thyroids extracted from mice that had spontaneously developed thyroid lesions (cancerous or benign). Three sets of mice were acquired having different predispositions to developing three thyroid anomalies: C-cell adenoma, papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) and follicular variant papillary thyroid carcinoma (FV-PTC). A fourth set of mice that did not develop thyroid anomalies (normal mice) were used as controls. The backscatter coefficient was estimated from excised thyroid lobes the different mice. From the backscatter coefficient versus frequency (25-45 MHz), the effective scatterer diameter (ESD) and effective acoustic concentration (EAC) were estimated. From the envelope of the backscattered signal, the homodyned K distribution was used to estimate the k parameter (ratio of coherent to incoherent signal energy) and the μ parameter (number of scatterers per resolution cell). Statistically significant differences were observed between cancerous thyroids and normal thyroids based on the ESD, EAC and μ parameters. The mean ESD values were 18.0 ± 0.92, 15.9 ± 0.81 and 21.5 ± 1.80 μm for the PTC, FV-PTC and normal thyroids, respectively. The mean EAC values were 59.4 ± 1.74, 62.7 ± 1.61 and 52.9 ± 3.42 dB (mm(-3)) for the PTC, FV-PTC and normal thyroids, respectively. The mean μ values were 2.55 ± 0.37, 2.59 ± 0.43 and 1.56 ± 0.99 for the PTC, FV-PTC and normal thyroids, respectively. Statistically significant differences were observed between cancerous thyroids and C-cell adenomas based on the ESD and EAC parameters, with an estimated ESD value of 21.3 ± 1.50 μm and EAC value of 54.7 ± 2.24 dB mm(-3) for C-cell adenomas. These results suggest that high-frequency quantitative ultrasound may enhance the ability to detect and classify diseased thyroid tissues.