Although the incidence of positive resection margins in breast-conserving surgery has decreased, both incomplete resection and unnecessary large resections still occur. This is especially the case in the surgical treatment of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS), an optical technology based on light tissue interactions, can potentially characterize tissue during surgery thereby guiding the surgeon intraoperatively. DRS has shown to be able to discriminate pure healthy breast tissue from pure invasive carcinoma (IC) but limited research has been done on (1) the actual optical characteristics of DCIS and (2) the ability of DRS to characterize measurements that are a mixture of tissue types.
In this study, DRS spectra were acquired from 107 breast specimens from 107 patients with proven IC and/or DCIS (1488 measurement locations). With a generalized estimating equation model, the differences between the DRS spectra of locations with DCIS and IC and only healthy tissue were compared to see if there were significant differences between these spectra. Subsequently, different classification models were developed to be able to predict if the DRS spectrum of a measurement location represented a measurement location with "healthy" or "malignant" tissue. In the development and testing of the models, different definitions for "healthy" and "malignant" were used. This allowed varying the level of homogeneity in the train and test data.
It was found that the optical characteristics of IC and DCIS were similar. Regarding the classification of tissue with a mixture of tissue types, it was found that using mixed measurement locations in the development of the classification models did not tremendously improve the accuracy of the classification of other measurement locations with a mixture of tissue types. The evaluated classification models were able to classify measurement locations with > 5% malignant cells with a Matthews correlation coefficient of 0.41 or 0.40. Some models showed better sensitivity whereas others had better specificity.
The results suggest that DRS has the potential to detect malignant tissue, including DCIS, in healthy breast tissue and could thus be helpful for surgical guidance.