Laser and fibre optics could help early cancer detection
Starkville, Miss. USA. A novel technology using an optical fibre to carry
laser light into suspicious tissue and performing spectral analysis of the
cells, could help detect cancer earlier, without performing invasive
A research team consisting of engineers and biomedical scientists at
Mississippi State University in the USA is using technology called
laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, or LIBS. A single optical fibre
microprobe is inserted directly into suspicious tissue and laser light
passed through the fibre stimulates emission of light that is passed back
through the fibre and analysed by a spectroscope.
Computer software will be developed to differentiate between cancer and
normal tissue, based on the intensity and ratio of different trace elements
present in the tissue cell. The researchers have already identified
significant differences in the content of metals such as calcium, aluminium
and iron between malignant and normal tissues.
Algorithms then would be applied to the signal to classify the tissue as
malignant or non-malignant. This could eliminate tissue extraction from the
breast and provide much more rapid feedback to the pathologist, according to
MSU is seeking a patent for the new technology devised by team leader
Jagdish P. Singh, a research professor with the Diagnostic Instrumentation
and Analysis Laboratory (DIAL) and Shane Burgess, an assistant professor of
basic science in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The scientists have
recently published papers in Applied Optics and Opto & Laser Europe, and
also the website optics.org.
The study "shows that LIBS has great potential for (commercial) development
as an in vivo diagnostic tool for cancer, and perhaps even other diseases,"
said the scientists.
DIAL provided initial funding to demonstrate the feasibility of the research
project and that led to $106,000 in funding support from the university's
Life Sciences and Biotechnology Institute. The MSU team is seeking
additional funds from the U.S. Department of Defense, National Institutes of
Health and industrial partners.
"Early diagnosis, especially before the cancer has metastasized to regional
lymph nodes, is essential," said Singh, noting more than 200,000 women in
the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer annually. He said a
recent decrease in breast cancer mortality has been linked to screening and
"Development and testing of more sensitive and more rapid screening
techniques should lead to further improvements, especially in younger women
whose breast density may preclude adequate screening by conventional
mammography," added Burgess. "Furthermore, surgical interventions that are
less radical have a significant positive impact on the patient's emotional
and psychological well-being."
"Current definitive diagnostic techniques require biopsy followed by
time-consuming sample preparation and processing," said Burgess. "The main
advantage of LIBS over other techniques is that it has real time-time and
online measurement capability, and causes a fraction of the trauma of
For further information:
Diagnostic Instrumentation and Analysis Laboratory (DIAL) at Mississippi