VBCSS receives funding to assess artificial intelligence for mammography interpretation and risk prediction

November 7, 2022

The VBCSS is part of a new Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) research project seeking to use artificial intelligence algorithms to improve the early detection of breast cancer and better identify women at higher risk for an advanced or second breast cancer who need additional screening. The new $15 million award from the National Cancer Institute to the BCSC supports analysis of mammography images collected at participating BCSC registries, including the VBCSS, and use of CISNET breast cancer simulation models to project long-term impacts on breast cancer mortality.

VBCSS trainee receives Outstanding Research Publication award

November 2, 2022

Serena Murphy, MD, won the award for Outstanding Research Publication by a resident at the 2022 University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine's Excellence in Research Celebration.  Dr. Murphy won for her paper on "Gradual adoption of needle biopsy for breast lesions in a rural state", which was completed under the mentorship of Michelle Sowden, DO, and Brian Sprague, PhD, using data from the VBCSS.  Dr. Murphy finished her surgical residency at UVM in June is now doing a colorectal surgery fellowship the University of California, Irvine.  Congratulations Serena!

VBCSS study demonstrates reduction of advanced breast cancer with 3D mammography

July 6, 2022

In a study of 504,427 women undergoing more than 1.3 screening mammograms – the first study of this size and scope - the VBCSS teamed up with four other mammography registries across the country in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium to show that the rate of late-stage breast cancer was reduced among women undergoing breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis compared to those undergoing 2D digital mammography.  The findings were published in JAMA.

UVM Cancer Center Investigators Publish the Breast Pre-Cancer Atlas

January 18, 2022

VBCSS investigators Donald Weaver and Brian Sprague partnered with other UVM Cancer Center Researchers and scientists and clinicians at the University of California-San Francisco, the University of California-Davis, and the University of California-San Diego to develop a multimodal breast pre-cancer atlas based on their characterization of the mutational, transcriptional, histological, and micro-environment landscape of thirty-nine patient tumors.

VBCSS study produces risk calculator for advanced breast cancer

January 13, 2022

The VBCSS contributed to a new risk prediction model that estimates a woman's 6-year risk of developing advanced breast cancer risk based on clinical risk factors and her frequency of mammography screening.  The risk model was developed in a collaboration amongst Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium registries and can be used to decide how often women should be screened and whether supplemental imaging should be considered. The findings were published in Journal of the National Cancer Institute. iPhone and Android apps and a website-based app are available to run the risk model calculation.

UVM Researchers Help Identify Impact of COVID-caused Delays in Breast Cancer Screening

November 23, 2021

New research from the VBCSS in collaboration with the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) found that from March to September 2020, breast biopsies and detected cancers at U.S. BCSC facilities dropped sharply, compared with the same span a year earlier. Biopsies declined by 23 percent and detected cancers by 24 percent – findings that the research team attributes mostly to the postponement of routine screening mammograms as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. 

UVM medical student awarded Summer Research Fellowship for VBCSS Project

April 6, 2021

UVM medical student Mikaela Mohardt was named one of the recipients of the 2021 Summer Student Fellowships in Cancer Research from the University of Vermont Cancer Center.  Her project will investigate collagen organization as a novel predictor of malignant potential in pre-invasive breast cancer, using data and specimens collected via the VBCSS. Congratulations Mikaela!

VBCSS leads collaborative study of national mammography trends during the pandemic

March 31, 2021

A new study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institute looking at US mammography screening rates during the first 5 months of the pandemic found both a strong rebound in breast cancer screening rates and a concerning cumulative deficit in mammograms due to missed appointments, as well as uncovering disparities when looking at screening according to race.  The study included data from Vermont along with data from 5 other breast imaging registries across in the country in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.

VBCSS Director interviewed about declining cancer mortality rates in the United States

February 3, 2021

VBCSS Director Dr. Brian Sprague appeared on WCAX Channel 3 news to comment on a recent report describing an accelerated decline in cancer mortality rates in the United States.  Dr. Sprague discussed the contributions of tobacco control efforts and new screening and treatment advances, in addition to ongoing challenges to cancer control in Vermont.

Translational VBCSS study examines novel prognostic markers in pre-invasive breast cancer

January 11, 2021

A new study from the VBCSS examines collagen organization in the breast tumor microenvironment in relation to long term outcomes after a pre-invasive breast cancer diagnosis.  The study was a collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation, which used multiphoton microscopy to characterize individual collagen fibers in human breast cancer specimens identified through the VBCSS.  Using data on up to 15 years of follow-up, the investigators found that risk of disease progression was lower among cases with greater collagen fiber width and fiber density, whereas risk was elevated among cases with higher fiber straightness.  The results may have implications for precision medicine strategies for management of early stage breast cancer.

VBCSS receives National Cancer Institute funding to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on breast cancer

August 6, 2020

The VBCSS received new funding from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of breast cancer screening and diagnostic imaging.  These funds will support rapid analysis of detailed breast imaging and cancer detection data during the pandemic at participating BCSC registries and use CISNET breast cancer simulation models to project the long-term consequences of reduced screening utilization on breast cancer mortality.

VBCSS collaborative study reports improved breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis

March 30, 2020

Research findings, published in JAMA Network Open and led by VBCSS Director Brian Sprague, Ph.D., show that breast cancer screening with digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT, also known as 3D mammography) improves breast cancer screening performance among most radiologists.  Compared with conventional 2D mammography, DBT on average has higher cancer detection rates and lower recall rates for additional imaging. The research team, a collaboration across the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC), looked at variation in DBT performance across radiologists, and found that while most radiologists reduced recall rates through its use, not all did.

VBCSS awarded grant to study screening ultrasound  

March 1, 2020

The VBCSS has received a new R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate the effectiveness of supplemental ultrasound screening for women with dense breasts.  The five year grant is a collaboration among 10 institutions across the United States, led by VBCSS Director Brian Sprague, PhD, and co-Principal Investigator Natasha Stout at Harvard School of Public Health.  The study plans to use clinical data on more than 100,000 screening ultrasound exams from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) and two established computer simulation models from the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network (CISNET).

VBCSS study investigates trends in breast density assessment 

June 1, 2019 

A new study led by VBCSS Director Brian Sprague, PhD, was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute describing patterns in breast density assessment following recent changes in breast imaging practice.  Using data from more than 3 million mammograms interpreted at 144 facilities participating in the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, it was found that patterns in breast density assessment were similar before and after the release of the new BI-RADS density classification guidelines, and were also similar on digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT) exams compared to conventional digital mammography exams.  Clinicians, researchers, and policymakers may reasonably expect stable density distributions across screened populations despite changes to the BI-RADS guidelines and implementation of DBT.

VBCSS student intern Sophie Mulrow awarded

April 16, 2019

Sophie Mulrow has been a work-study student with the VBCSS for all four years of her undergraduate studies at UVM.  Today she was awarded second place in the 2018-2019 UVM Student Employee of the Year competition.  She was recognized for her valuable contributions to the development and testing of new patient matching programs that the VBCSS now uses to integrate data from multiple healthcare facilities across Vermont.  Congratulations Sophie for being recognized out of over 3000 UVM student employees!  

VBCSS Director recognized with Dean's Excellence in Research Award

October 30, 2018

VBCSS Director Dr. Brian Sprague received the Mid-Career Investigator Award at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine's "Dean's Excellence in Research" event.  The award recognized the impact of Dr. Sprague's epidemiologic research on our understanding of breast cancer risk and breast cancer screening.  The event highlighted research being conducted by faculty, postdoctoral trainees, and graduate students within the college, with a Keynote Address given by Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health. 

Dr. Herschorn interviewed for Consumer Reports article on breast cancer screening

June 15, 2018

VBCSS investigator and UVMMC Director of Breast Imaging Dr. Sally Herschorn provided insights on digital breast tomosynthesis and breast ultrasound to Consumer Reports for their report on "What kind of breast cancer screening should you get?".  The report helps women make sense of the many options now available for breast cancer screening.

Department of Defense Patriot Award

April 4, 2018

The Office of Health Promotion Research received the Department of Defense Patriot Award to recognize its support of VBCSS staff member and Vermont Army Reserve National Guard combat medic Denis Nunez.  VBCSS administrator Dawn Pelkey accepted the award on behalf of the department.  The award recognizes employers for their outstanding support and flexibility in employing  service members who are frequently called to duty on short notice for critical missions in Vermont and around the world.  We thank Denis for his service to our country and his great work for the VBCSS!

VBCSS Awarded Grant to Study Digital Breast Tomosynthesis

December 15, 2017

The Vermont Breast Cancer Surveillance System has been awarded a grant from the National Cancer Institute to study a new technology in breast cancer screening.  Digital breast tomosynthesis improves breast cancer screening performance when added to conventional 2D digital mammography, though there are concerns regarding the extra radiation dose.  In a multi-center study, including a collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania, we will evaluate the clinical performance of a new approach in which digital breast tomosynthesis is used with synthetic 2D images instead of conventional 2D mammography.

VBCSS Investigators Contribute to Consumer Reports Article

October 20, 2017

Consumer Reports interviewed VBCSS investigators Dr. Brian Sprague and Dr. Sally Herschorn for a special report on what factors patients can consider when choosing a mammography facility for their breast cancer screening.

VBCSS Shares in $17 Million Grant to Improve Breast Cancer Screening and Surveillance

August 10, 2017

The Vermont Breast Cancer Surveillance System (VBCSS) will receive $1.8 million over 5 years as part of a $17 million grant to continue the work of the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC). This program project grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute will support new investigation of different breast cancer screening and surveillance strategies using digital mammography, digital breast tomosynthesis (three-dimensional mammography), and breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

VBCSS Trainee Jacqueline Wade Wins Award for Research Project

May 16, 2017

The University of Vermont Department of Surgery held the 47th Annual Surgery Senior Major Scientific Program on May 4, 2017 to showcase the scholarly work of Larner College of Medicine students who will be specializing in surgery following graduation. Jacqueline Wade ’17 received the second-place prize for her project using VBCSS data, titled “The Impact of Mammographic Screening on the Use of Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer in Women Ages 40-49.”


Sprague Study Provides New National Benchmarks for Diagnostic Mammography Performance

February 28, 2017

The shift from film to digital technology for diagnostic mammography appears to have improved cancer detection rates for diagnostic mammography, but also has increased the abnormal interpretation rate, which may lead to more women undergoing biopsies for benign conditions, according to a new study published in the journal Radiology.


VBCSS trainee Vicki Hart wins Dean's Excellence in Research Award

November 1, 2016

Dr. Vicki Hart received a Dean's Excellence in Research Trainee Award for Outstanding Research Publication/Postdoctoral Fellows at the inaugural Larner College of Medicine's "Dean’s Excellence in Research Awards" event held on November 1, 2016.  Dean Morin and Associate Dean for Research Jensen presented Dr. Hart with the award for her paper titled "Trends in health related quality of life following a diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ", which was published earlier this year in Journal of Clinical Oncology.  Dr. Hart conducted the study as a postdoctoral researcher with the VBCSS.


VBCSS Collaboration with Simulation Modeling Groups Reveals Women with Dense Breasts Need More Frequent Screening

August 22, 2016

One size doesn’t fit all women in clothing, and neither should all women have mammograms on the same schedule, a new national study concludes.  A large computer modeling study led by Dr. Amy Trentham-Dietz of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center found that the majority of women ages 50 to 74 can benefit if they have mammograms every two or three years. These women at average risk can retain most of the benefit of having mammograms less often and greatly reduce the chances of false positive results and unneeded biopsies and overdiagnosis, the study concludes.


Sprague Study Finds “Dense Breasts” Diagnosis Varies Widely Among Radiologists

July 22, 2016

In May, Vermont became the 28th state to adopt legislation mandating reporting of breast density information to patients. New University of Vermont (UVM) research - published July 18, 2016 in the Annals of Internal Medicine - shows that density assessment, as currently practiced, is subjective and highly variable across radiologists and warns of the implications of relying on the subjective measurement for clinical decision-making for breast cancer screening.

WCAX television segment


Sprague, Weaver & Stein to Study Mechanisms Underlying Idle vs. Progressive Early Stage Breast Cancers

November 11, 2015

While better technology and screening practices have led to the detection of more breast cancers in women—many of which fall into a broad category of early-stage cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS—researchers still do not understand why some of these early cancers remain idle, while others progress. With the support of a new, $3.7 million federal grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) Cancer Center will be looking to answer this question.

WCAX television segment


Sprague Study Finds Menopausal Status a Better Indicator than Age for Mammography Frequency

October 20, 2015

Premenopausal women, or women still experiencing menstruation, over age 40 may want annual mammograms to increase their chances of finding cancers earlier, suggests a new study that found a screening mammogram once every two years is safe for postmenopausal women at average risk of breast cancer. The results are reported in the October 21, 2015 Online First edition of Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Oncology.


Weaver Study Examines Diagnostic Accuracy of Pathologists’ Interpretations of Breast Biopsies

March 17, 2015

The accuracy of pathologists’ diagnoses is an important and under-studied area. Now, a new study released this week in the March 17 issue of JAMA reports that pathologists interpreting breast biopsies have high levels of agreement on the most serious of breast cancers – invasive – and lower levels of agreement for biopsy interpretations of ductal carcinoma in situ, commonly referred to as DCIS, and atypical hyperplasia, also referred to as “atypia.”

WCAX television segment


Sprague Study Shows Supplemental Breast Cancer Screening for Women with Dense Breasts Not Beneficial

December 8, 2014

A new study released in the Annals of Internal Medicine and led by Brian Sprague, Ph.D., at the University of Vermont Cancer Center concludes that supplemental ultrasound screening for women with dense breasts would substantially increase costs with little improvement in overall outcomes. The research provides needed evidence on the benefits and harms of breast cancer screening options for women with dense breasts, and informs the discussion of national legislation that would mandate the disclosure of breast density information to women.

WCAX television segment