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Press Release 07-086
Shining Light on Pancreatic Cancer

Experimental techniques show promise in screening for one of the nationís deadliest diseases

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Tumors in the pancreas can not be effectively visualized at the macro or micro level. Pancreatic tissue is so friable, that sending any kind of instrumentation into it to explore for cancer would seriously endanger the patient's health. When compared under the microscope, cells biopsied from the duodenum are identical between control patients and those with pancreatic cancer. However, when researchers went one step further and looked at the scale of nanometers, this very same tissue gave new insight. Photons bounce off tissue at different angles depending on whether cells are healthy or not. The technique can "see" the relative difference between healthy and damaged tissue.

Credit: Zina Deretsky and Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

 

Photo of host in studio and four people on a screen

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Three of the pioneers behind novel light-scattering techniques to detect certain early stage cancers joined an outside expert on biophotonics in a call-in program to discuss new research results that were presented in the Aug. 1, 2007, edition of Clinical Cancer Research. Richard McCourt (right), of NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences, was the moderator.

Credit: National Science Foundation

 

Cancerous pancreas shown with duodenum

Pancreatic cancer, unseen at its earliest stages by any other method, can be detected by examining tissue from inside the duodenum, the uppermost section of the small intestine. The pancreatic duct communicates with the duodenum via the Ampulla of Vater. Researchers have shown that cells in a roughly 3 cm radius from this feature can show signs of the presence of cancer.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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The light-scattering technology that is showing promise with the detection of pancreatic cancer.

The combined four-dimensional elastic light scattering fingerprinting (4D-ELF) and low-coherence enhanced backscattering spectroscopy (LEBS) technologies were developed by Vadim Backman and his colleagues at Northwestern University with the support of seven NSF grants.

Credit: Northwestern University, Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare


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Vadim Backman of Northwestern University led the development of a novel spectroscopy technology.

Vadim Backman of Northwestern University led the development of a novel spectroscopy technology that may aid in the detection of pancreatic cancer.

Credit: Northwestern University, Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare


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Vadim Backman and Hemant Roy demonstrate a portable version of the new spectroscopy tool.

Vadim Backman (right) of Northwestern University and Hemant Roy of Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare demonstrate a portable version of the new spectroscopy tool, which is showing promise with colon cancer detection. The researchers are now working on developing a portable version of the system to aid with pancreatic cancer detection.

Credit: Northwestern University, Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare


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Researchers can look at how light bounces off of human tissue to detect subtle changes potentially c

Researchers can look at how light bounces off of human tissue to detect subtle changes potentially caused by cancer. The spectral image that results is like a fingerprint for disease. The technology was developed with NSF support by researchers at Northwestern University and colleagues at Evanston-Northwestern Healthcare.

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation


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