Researchers develop 'endoscope' to detect cancer, zap tumours

Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Researchers are developing a biomedical device that can find and destroy cancer cells
[PHOTO: University of Buffalo] 
Washington: To examine internal organs, doctors often use a tube with light and a tiny camera attached to it. The device, called an endoscope, helps detect cancer and other illnesses.

It may soon serve another purpose: zapping tumors.

“We expect doctors in the
operating room will
greatly benefit from
 this device.” 

- Ulas Sunar, UB's Department of
Biomedical Engineering

The biomedical advancement, under development at University of Buffalo (The State University of New York) could make chemotherapy more efficient, reduce its side effects and improve how doctors treat some of the most deadly forms of cancer.

“We are developing a novel endoscopic device that will improve our ability to detect and destroy cancer cells,” says Ulas Sunar, research assistant professor in UB’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health grant that supports the research.

Conventional endoscopic imaging has limitations. Its image contrast is distorted because light scatters and is absorbed by the body. This leads to blurred or low-contrast images of the tumor environment that limit doctors’ ability to visualize tumors.

To overcome these deficiencies, the new endoscope utilizes spatial frequency domain imaging. This new technique corrects the image contrast problem by projecting patterns of light at different frequencies on the cancer cells. This results in a high-contrast map of the tumor environment.

“We expect doctors in the operating room will greatly benefit from this device,” Sunar says.
The next step is to zap the tumors.

The next step is to zap the tumors.

Chemotherapy drugs will be delivered intravenously. But unlike conventional treatment, the drugs will be encapsulated in tiny liposomes called nanoballoons. This technology — under development by Jonathan Lovell, UB assistant professor of biomedical engineering — carries the drugs to the tumor while shielding them from healthy cells, thus reducing side effects. Upon reaching the cancer cells, doctors strike the nanoballons with the endoscopic light beam, causing them to pop open and release the drug directly at the tumor.

Sunar will spend much of 2015 developing the system. He then will test it on animal models. Upon completion of the grant in 2016, he expects to begin a pilot study with Shashikant Lele, clinical chief of gynecologic oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
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