The SOLUS project (Smart Optical and Ultrasound Diagnostics of Breast Cancer) is a trans-disciplinary 48-month project bringing together nine industry, academic and clinical partners from 5 countries (engineers, physicists and radiologists) representing cutting-edge expertise in their fields, to develop an innovative non-invasive, point-of-care, low-cost, easy-to-operate, multi-modal imaging system (diffuse optics and ultrasounds/shear wave elastography) for high-specificity diagnosis of breast cancer, the most common female cancer in Europe.

Mammographic screening is effective in reducing mortality, however the 10-year cumulative false-positive risk is 50-60%, leading to needless additional invasive procedures (e.g. biopsy). The project addresses the unmet clinical need for higher specificity in breast cancer imaging following screening by fully combining photonics with non-photonics techniques, developing and clinically validating innovative and previously unthinkable photonics concepts and components: time-domain small source-detector distance optical tomography, miniaturised picosecond pulsed laser sources, high-dynamic-range time-gated single-photons detectors to achieve unprecedented sensitivity and depth penetration. For the first time, this allows a comprehensive quantitative characterisation of breast tissue including composition (water, lipids, collagen), functional blood parameters, morphologic information and mechanical parameters (stiffness).

This innovative multi-parametric characterisation will significantly improve the specificity of breast screening, with great impact on the quality of life of millions of European women every year, and huge savings for the healthcare systems. The strong involvement of leading industrial players at all levels in the value chain will push the European innovation process and make a significant contribution to ensuring Europe’s industrial leadership in the biophotonics healthcare market, while addressing one of the largest societal challenges in health and well-being.

Facts and figures

Coordinator: Politecnico di Milano
Number of Partners: 9
Start Date: November 1, 2016
End Date: April 30, 2021
Total Funding: €3,815,260

SOLUS receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 731877 and is an initiative of the Photonics Public Private Partnership.