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Optical imaging for early cancer detection


Through collaboration with the BC Cancer Research Center, our optical imaging systems and endomicroscopes will be applied to study lung and skin cancers. In vivo optical imaging will help doctors to detect cancer in its early stage.

Project Description

Lung cancer is the foremost cause of cancer death in Canada. In 2006, lung cancer was estimated to account for 10,700 of cancer deaths in men and 8,600 in women. Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. Diagnosis of cancer relies on sophisticated medical imaging instruments such as CT, MRI, ultrasound, and PET. These instruments are capable of body-region scans but tumors smaller than 2 mm are likely to go undetected and the detection of tumors smaller than 7 mm are confounded by high false positive rates. Improvement in the management of cancer requires better diagnostic tools for early detection.

Optical imaging is the fastest growing imaging modality for cancer research. The key appeal of optical imaging is its inherent high sensitivity and resolution which is unmatched by any other in vivo imaging technique. For example, optical imaging can detect tumors as small as a few hundred microns, while MRI and PET can only detect tumors with a lower size limit of 2-3 mm. Optical techniques can detect as few as 100 tumor cells in vivo, while the minimum number of detectable cells of MRI, PET and CT is around 500,000. Optical imaging can detect picomolar concentrations of contrast agents while MRI requires micromolar concentrations. Therefore, optical imaging has the great potential of detecting cancer in its earlier stages.

We develop optical imaging and endomicroscopes which can be used for early cancer detection. The optical methods will be able to provide 3D sub-surface imaging at both the macroscopic tissue level to show the whole tissue structure and at the microscopic cellular level to provide molecular sensitivity and specificity. Thus cellular function and morphology can be imaged within the 3D network over tissues, which is crucial for cancer screening and disease characterization.

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