New Cancer Diagnostic Tool
A new cancer-diagnostic tool based on Lancaster University’s recently-patented technique known as photothermal micro-spectroscopy (PTMS) will be developed thanks to a £386,876 award from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Methods to identify pre-malignant cells based on the their abnormalities in comparison with normal cells will be investigated by a collaboration based at Lancaster University which includes the Physics department, the Biological Sciences department alongside external co-investigators from Daresbury Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory and the companies, TA Instruments and Specac.
The tool should lead to more effective treatment of cancers.
Drs Frank Martin and Nigel Fullwood from Lancaster University’s Biological Sciences department, explained that there is a current problem during routine diagnosis where abnormal cells may hide amongst larger populations of normal cells during the analysis of a biopsy sample. '‘Early pre-malignant cells may be more similar to normal cells than aggressively-growing cancer cells in their physical structure thus making them extremely difficult to visually identify amongst an overwhelmingly population of normal cells that they can hide amongst.’’
Dr Hubert Pollock, from Lancaster University explained that there is a current problem during routine diagnosis where abnormal cells may hide amongst larger populations of normal cells during the analysis of a biopsy sample.
“Our technology, developed in the Physics Department, should be sensitive enough to identify cancerous or pre-malignant cells even when such cells make up only a very small proportion of the overall cell numbers; a very important limitation in conventional cancer diagnosis.
“Our new approach will be compared with such conventional approaches (cytology following staining, TEM or immunohistochemistry) to establish a "biochemical fingerprint" database of characteristic changes associated with abnormal cells. This approach would identify such ‘rogue’ cells and lead to more effective treatment.”
Initial work will focus on the identification of cancer cells of breast and prostate origin.
Approximately 1 in 10 women and men resident in the UK will develop breast or prostate cancer, respectively.