Optical Techniques Are Promising

The promising new technology could probably help raise the extremely low survival rate of pancreatic cancer patients by aiding early detection. It uses novel light-scattering techniques to analyze extremely subtle changes in the cells of the duodenum, part of the small intestine neighboring the pancreas. The cells are obtained through a minimally invasive endoscopy.

The study shows that cells that appear normal using traditional microscopy techniques do show signs of abnormality when examined using the Northwestern technique, which provides cell analysis on the much smaller nanoscale.

The technology was developed by Vadim Backman, professor of biomedical engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern, and Vladimir Turzhitsky, a graduate student in Backman's lab.

It combines two complementary optical techniques, four-dimensional elastic light-scattering fingerprinting (4D-ELF) and low-coherence enhanced backscattering spectroscopy (LEBS). The researchers found that the two combined work better than one alone in pancreatic cancer screening.

During the test, a xenon lamp shines intense, white light through a series of lenses and filters onto the specimen - cells from the duodenum. The light refracts through the outermost layer of tissues and scatters into a spectrograph, a device that separates a beam of white light into its component wavelengths and measures them. An image sensor captures the result, then a computer analyzes the pattern of light scattering, looking for the "fingerprint" of carcinogenesis in the nanoarchitecture of the cells.

The technology makes use of a biological phenomenon known as the "field effect," a hypothesis that suggests the genetic and environmental milieu that results in a neoplastic lesion in one area of an organ should be detectable throughout the organ and even in neighboring tissue.

If similar results are found when the technique is applied to other organs, the method could have broad impact on the timely treatment of breast cancer, lung cancer and other forms of cancer.

COMPAMED.de; Source: Northwestern University