Optical Technique Could Spot Early Cancer

EVANSTON, Ill., Oct. 5 (UPI) — U.S. researchers say an optical scanning technology could detect early signs of lung cancer by examining cheek cells in human beings.

Researchers from Northwestern University say the pioneering “biophotonics” technology shows potential for pre-screening patients at his risk for the disease, a Northwestern release said.


“By examining the lining of the cheek with this optical technology, we have the potential to pre-screen patients at high risk for lung cancer, such as those who smoke, and identify the individuals who would likely benefit from more invasive and expensive tests versus those who don’t need additional tests,” said Dr. Hemant K. Roy, director of gastroenterology research at NorthShore HealthSystem, a partner with Northwestern in the research.

Vadim Backman, professor of biomedical engineering at Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied science, developed the technique, called partial wave spectroscopic microscopy.

PWS can detect cell features as small as 20 nanometers, uncovering differences in cells not apparent using standard microscopy techniques, researchers say.

“Despite the fact that these cells appear to be normal using standard microscopy … there are actually profound changes in the nanoscale architecture of the cell,” Backman said. “PWS measures the disorder strength of the nanoscale organization of the cell, which we have determined to be one of the earliest signs of carcinogenesis and a strong marker for the presence of cancer in the organ.”

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