At the University of Michigan, a multidisciplinary team of researchers is investigating whether tissue optical spectroscopy can be employed for early cancer detection in the pancreas during minimally-invasive endoscopic diagnostic procedures.
Their objective is to help physicians distinguish between cancerous tissue transformations and benign changes in tissues due to different diseases, such as pancreatitis. Doing this can speed correct diagnosis and treatment to produce better patient outcomes. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States; 95 percent of all patients diagnosed with the disease will die from it, more than half within six months of diagnosis.
“Until better treatment approaches can be developed, the only opportunity to change disease-associated mortality in pancreatic cancer patients is earlier diagnosis,” explains Mary-Ann Mycek, associate professor and associate chair of the Michigan’s Department of Biomedical Engineering. “Current diagnostic methods have not been able to provide accurate diagnoses in early stages of the disease.”
The Michigan team’s goal is to develop an optical method to detect pancreatic cancer in patients at early stages—an advance that could greatly improve the chances of patient survival by meeting the critical, unmet need of accurately differentiating malignant masses from benign pancreatitis. Such improved diagnostic accuracy could also appropriately triage patients, thereby preventing those without cancer from having unnecessary surgery.
To do this, investigators used a multimodal optical spectroscopy approach based on observing reflectance and fluorescence properties of pancreatic tissue samples. Spectral analysis showed significant differences between normal, pancreatitis (inflammation) and cancerous tissues, thus suggesting non-invasive diagnostic possibilities for distinguishing among disease states.
The idea behind optically-based diagnostics is this: in the body, the presence of disease alters tissue properties, such as local biochemistry and structure. Optically-based disease diagnostic techniques can probe microscopic tissue alterations for signatures of disease, thereby leading to non-invasive diagnostics in living patients. Once detected optically, such diseased tissue may be treated. Because optical techniques do not require the removal of tissue, they could represent an advance in patient care over the invasive practice of tissue biopsy.
Medical research is a cornerstone of Frontiers in Optics 2008 (FiO), the 92nd Annual Meeting of the Optical Society (OSA), being held Oct. 19-23 at the Riverside Convention Center in Rochester, N.Y. FiO 2008 will take place alongside Laser Science XXIV, the annual meeting of the American Physical Society’s Division of Laser Science. Presentation FTuK5, “Modeling Reflectance and Fluorescence Spectra of Human Pancreatic Tissues for Cancer Diagnostics,” Oct. 21.
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