Raman Spectroscopy Reveals That Biochemical Composition of Breast Microcalcifications Correlates with Histopathologic Features

Renzo Vanna, Carlo Morasso, Beatrice Marcinnò, Francesca Piccotti, Emanuele Torti, Davide Altamura, Sara Albasini, Manuela Agozzino, Laura Villani, Luca Sorrentino, Oliver Bunk, Francesco Leporati, Cinzia Giannini, Fabio Corsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Breast microcalcifications are a common mammographic finding. Microcalcifications are considered suspicious signs of breast cancer and a breast biopsy is required, however, cancer is diagnosed in only a few patients. Reducing unnecessary biopsies and rapid characterization of breast microcalcifications are unmet clinical needs. In this study, 473 microcalcifications detected on breast biopsy specimens from 56 patients were characterized entirely by Raman mapping and confirmed by X-ray scattering. Microcalcifications from malignant samples were generally more homogeneous, more crystalline, and characterized by a less substituted crystal lattice compared with benign samples. There were significant differences in Raman features corresponding to the phosphate and carbonate bands between the benign and malignant groups. In addition to the heterogeneous composition, the presence of whitlockite specifically emerged as marker of benignity in benign microcalcifications. The whole Raman signature of each microcalcification was then used to build a classification model that distinguishes microcalcifications according to their overall biochemical composition. After validation, microcalcifications found in benign and malignant samples were correctly recognized with 93.5% sensitivity and 80.6% specificity. Finally, microcalcifications identified in malignant biopsies, but located outside the lesion, reported malignant features in 65% of in situ and 98% of invasive cancer cases, respectively, suggesting that the local microenvironment influences microcalcification features. This study confirms that the composition and structural features of microcalcifications correlate with breast pathology and indicates new diagnostic potentialities based on microcalcifications assessment. SIGNIFICANCE: Raman spectroscopy could be a quick and accurate diagnostic tool to precisely characterize and distinguish benign from malignant breast microcalcifications detected on mammography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1762-1772
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 15 2020


  • Biomarkers/analysis
  • Biopsy
  • Breast/chemistry
  • Breast Carcinoma In Situ/chemistry
  • Breast Diseases/diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms/chemistry
  • Calcinosis/diagnosis
  • Calcium Phosphates/analysis
  • Carbonates/analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Phosphates/analysis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman/methods


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