Scientists are working to improve the endoscope, a tool used to examine and detect cancer and other illnesses, so that it can be used to destroy cancer cells.
The biomedical advancement, which is under development at the University at Buffalo, could make chemotherapy more efficient, reduce its side effects and improve how doctors treat some of the most deadly forms of cancer.
Ulas Sunar, PhD, a research assistant professor in UB's Department of Biomedical Engineering said that they were developing a novel endoscopic device that would improve the ability to detect and destroy cancer cells.
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.
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, PhD, 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.
To effectively target the nanoballoons, doctors need to control the light beam. Sunar is developing a "digital mask" that adjusts the beam's intensity as well as manipulates its shape down to micron (one millionth of a meter) precision using a computer.
The system could be especially useful for treating ovarian cancer that has spread to the abdomen, as well as cancer in the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, mouth and other internal organs, he said.
Sunar will spend much of 2015 developing the system, after which it would be tested on animal models. Upon completion of the grant in 2016, he expects to begin a pilot study with Shashikant Lele, MD, 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.