A more accurate and noninvasive look at cancerous tumors

July 10, 2012 by Christina Cavanaugh

(Medical Xpress) -- Chao Zhou believes his work with combining imaging technologies has the potential to improve surgeries that remove malignant breast tumors.

“As many as 40 percent of breast cancer patients now have to undergo a second surgery, because part of the tumor is left behind during the first,” says Zhou, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.

By combining two technologies—optical coherence tomography (OCT) and confocal microscopy—Zhou says doctors can more precisely pinpoint a tumor’s location and remove it entirely on the first try.

One advantage of this hybrid approach, he says, is that it allows tissue to be imaged without being damaged or removed from the body. Tissue suspected of being cancerous is now typically removed, sectioned and stained—a technique known as histopathology—before it can be examined.

The combination of OCT and confocal microscopy can also provide information about embryonic forms without requiring samples to be removed from organisms.

Imaging in real time

OCT enables 3-D tissue imaging based on recognition and analysis of the light-scattering patterns caused by internal structures. Confocal microscopy, a form of optical microscopy, produces high-resolution but cannot penetrate tissue as deeply. Optical coherence microscopy (OCM) combines the two and increases resolution and imaging depth by compiling only coherent light, which is in focus.

“The goal of my research is to provide in situ, real-time imaging of tissue microstructures with a resolution approaching that of histopathology,” says Zhou, who is affiliated with Lehigh’s bioengineering program.

Before joining the faculty in June, Zhou was a senior postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he pioneered the use of OCT in cancer detection.

He received a Pathway to Independence research award in 2011 from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering in the National Institutes of Health.

Until now, says Zhou, doctors have evaluated tumor margin by taking a frozen section or histopathology. These techniques do not provide instant results.

OCT, by contrast, achieves real-time imaging. By combining OCT and OCM, Zhou can alternate between high and low magnifications when viewing the same fresh, unsliced tissue samples. He has been able to identify clusters of cancerous cells within a larger sample based on the tissue’s appearance under a microscope.

“We’re also using OCT and OCM to look at developmental biology,” Zhou said. “In current practice, if you want to examine a developing embryo or animal, you have to sacrifice it and cut it up. Our goal is to be able to image embryonic structures in a less destructive way.

“We can image [interior cross-sections of] the systolic and diastolic rhythms of an embryonic fly’s heart, and compare a normal heart to one with cardio-arrhythmia,” Zhou said. Because the heart rhythm is being imaged, it is vital that the organism be living; this can be accomplished with OCT. Zhou plans to extend his imaging of embryonic forms to other organisms.

“OCT, when combined with OCM, can get in vivo, 3-D structural and functional images without needing to remove and process tissues,” Zhou says. “OCT and OCM allow us to lay the foundations for providing real-time information in surgical suites and the pathology lab.”

Explore further: Girls' verbal skills make them better at arithmetic

Related Stories

Girls' verbal skills make them better at arithmetic

February 23, 2012
(PhysOrg.com) -- While boys generally do better than girls in science and math, some studies have found that girls do better in arithmetic. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for ...

New high-speed 3-D imaging system holds potential for improved cancer screening

August 1, 2011
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new imaging system that enables high-speed, three-dimensional (3-D) imaging of microscopic pre-cancerous changes in the esophagus or colon. The ...

New endoscope technology paves the way for 'molecular-guided surgery' for cancer

March 27, 2012
(PhysOrg.com) -- With more than 15 million endoscope procedures done on patients each year in the U.S. alone, scientists today reported evidence that a new version of these flexible instruments for diagnosing and treating ...

Recommended for you

Outdoor light at night linked with increased breast cancer risk in women

August 17, 2017
Women who live in areas with higher levels of outdoor light at night may be at higher risk for breast cancer than those living in areas with lower levels, according to a large long-term study from Harvard T.H. Chan School ...

Scientists develop blood test that spots tumor-derived DNA in people with early-stage cancers

August 16, 2017
In a bid to detect cancers early and in a noninvasive way, scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report they have developed a test that spots tiny amounts of cancer-specific DNA in blood and have used it to ...

Toxic formaldehyde is produced inside our own cells, scientists discover

August 16, 2017
New research has revealed that some of the toxin formaldehyde in our bodies does not come from our environment - it is a by-product of an essential reaction inside our own cells. This could provide new targets for developing ...

Cell cycle-blocking drugs can shrink tumors by enlisting immune system in attack on cancer

August 16, 2017
In the brief time that drugs known as CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer, doctors have made a startling observation: in certain patients, the drugs—designed to halt cancer ...

Researchers find 'switch' that turns on immune cells' tumor-killing ability

August 16, 2017
Molecular biologists led by Leonid Pobezinsky and his wife and research collaborator Elena Pobezinskaya at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have published results that for the first time show how a microRNA molecule ...

Popular immunotherapy target turns out to have a surprising buddy

August 16, 2017
The majority of current cancer immunotherapies focus on PD-L1. This well studied protein turns out to be controlled by a partner, CMTM6, a previously unexplored molecule that is now suddenly also a potential therapeutic target. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.