such as scattering,
absorption, and re-emission of light waves by clouds of gases and dust
particles. This helps astronomers understand the properties of their internal
In this way, cancerous growths can be
detected due to their differential density from the surrounding tissues.
The study was
jointly led by Dr. Charlie Jeynes, PhD and Professor Tim Harries, PhD. Dr.
Jeynes is an STFC 'Innovation' Research Fellow at the Center for Biomedical
Modeling and Analysis, University of Exeter, UK. Professor Harries is the Head
of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Exeter, UK.
The work is being
presented by Jeynes at the Royal Astronomical Society's National Astronomy
Meeting (NAM 2019) at the University of Lancaster, UK.
Breast Cancer Facts
How is Breast Cancer Linked to Astronomy?
the development of breast cancer, calcium is deposited in the breast tissues.
The calcium deposits have a higher density compared to the surrounding tissue.
This difference in density can be detected by a shift in the wavelength of
light during its passage through the breast tissue. These same principles have
been used for a long time in astronomy for studying the formation of planets
and stars. Hence, breast cancer detection and astronomy are linked through the
same technology used in both disciplines.
Jeynes says: "Light is
fundamental to a diverse range of medical advances, like measuring blood
oxygenation in premature babies, or treating port-wine stains with lasers. So
there is a natural connection with astronomy, and we're delighted to use our
work to take on cancer."
What Studies are Being Conducted by
Astronomers on Cancer?
The major studies
being carried out at the University of Exeter are briefly highlighted below:
- Computer modeling is being used to elucidate the
behavior of light waves when they pass through human tissue, which will
eventually help to develop rapid diagnostic tests (RDT), alleviating the
need for biopsies
- Computer modeling is being used for developing new
treatments for non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), which is the most common
type of skin cancer, affecting 80,000 people annually in England
- A simulated 'virtual laboratory' is being developed
based on computer coding to study skin cancer treatments
- The new treatments for skin cancer involve
light-activated drugs for photodynamic therapy and light-heated nanoparticles
for photothermal therapy
- The new treatments are effective in rats and will
soon be tested in humans
The research team
plans to carry out three-dimensional (3-D) modeling using actual images of
tumors, so that they can simulate the effect of different treatment modalities.
The efficacy of these treatments under simulation will be compared to actual
data on how the tumors respond to treatment. This will help in predicting which
treatment regimen is the best for a particular type of tumor, thereby giving
doctors a variety of options to choose from while planning treatment.
"Advances in fundamental science should
never be seen in isolation. Astronomy is no exception, and though impossible to
predict at the outset, its discoveries and techniques often benefit society.
Our work is a great example of that, and I'm really proud that we're helping
our medical colleagues wage war on cancer."
- Applying an Astrophysics Modeling Tool to Improve the Diagnosis and Treatment of Cancers Using Theranostic Nanoparticles - (https://www.nam2019.org/wednesday/details/22/21)