University and NorthShore University HealthSystem researchers are
using the latest biophotonics technology to examine human cheek cells
in order to identify
early signs of lung cancer.
lead authors of the study were Hemant K. Roy, M.D., director of
gastroenterology research at NorthShore; Vadim Backman, professor of
biomedical engineering at Northwestern's McCormick School of
Engineering and Applied Science; and Hariharan Subramanian, a
research associate in Backman's lab. Together, these researchers
discovered a new optical technology that is able to detect early
signs of lung cancer by checking human cheek cells.
examining the lining of the cheek with this optical technology, we
have the potential to prescreen 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 Roy.
lung cancer survival rates are high when the tumor is removed, it is
still the leading cause of cancer-related
deaths in the United States. Lung cancer develops quickly,
and is already advanced by the time a patient recognizes the
symptoms. At present, there are no tests available for "large
population screening" that indicates early lung cancer.
now, Backman has developed a partial wave spectroscopic (PWS)
microscope that has the ability to examine
cell features that are as small as 20 nanometers, and uses
the "field effect," which allows cells that are distant
from the pre-malignant or malignant tumor to be located and undergo
the fact that these cells appear to be normal using standard
microscopy, which images micron-scale cell architecture, there are
actually profound changes in the nanoscale architecture of the cell,"
said Backman. "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."
testing the PWS microscope in the lab, the researchers set out to
test it in a "small-scale trial" that consisted of 135
volunteers where 63 of them were smokers
with lung cancer, 37 were smokers with chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease (COPD), 13 were smokers without COPD and 22 were
non-smokers. The participants' cheeks were swabbed, and cheek cells
were set on a slide and "fixed in" with ethanol. The cells
were then scanned using PWS in order to measure the cell
nanoarchitecture's disorder strength. The trial concluded that
patients with lung cancer were "markedly greater," which
means 50 percent greater, than those who were non-smokers.
results are similar to other successful cancer screening techniques,
such as the pap smear," said Backman. "Our goal is to
develop a technique that can improve the detection of other cancers
in order to provide early treatments, much as the pap smear has
drastically improved survival rates for cervical cancer."
study was published in Cancer