The 3D system will be made by a team of researchers from Thomas Jefferson University and the University of Delaware, who have received a grant from the Department of Defense.
The imaging system will allow surgeons to view and touch selected organs and tissues prior to surgery.
The investigators will also design novel radiopharmaceuticals that will scan for gene activity of the disease and present the results in a realistic hologram-like display that can be touched and probed like genuine organs.
The two-year project is focused on the pancreas and pancreatic tumors, and has two aims.
The first is the molecular design of a single new imaging ligand for epidermal growth factor receptors, and the second is the surgical simulation of human pancreatic cancer reconstructed from patient CT and PET scans.
Currently, the elements of surgery must be imagined by the surgeon from two-dimensional diagnostic images before an operation, according to Eric Wickstrom, professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.
Three-dimensional holographic images will allow surgeons to see the lesion to be removed in the patient's own anatomical environment and permit a "touch and feel" surgical strategy.
"This imaging system will provide a highly realistic environment in which to better understand an individual patient's pathology, and to accurately plan and rehearse that patient's operation," said Wickstrom, the leader of the study.
"This system will combine the 3D visual image with the sense of touch and permit surgeons to view, palpate and manipulate selected organs and tissues," he added.