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Press Release 09-030
Determining Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

Experimental technique safely differentiates patients with pancreatic cancer, precursor lesions and benign tumors

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Graphs of health control and pancreatic adenocarcinoma as function of light intensity and degrees.

Measurements of light scattering off of benign tissue look different from similar measurements taken from cancerous tissue using the four-dimensional elastic light scattering fingerprinting (4D-ELF) and low-coherence enhanced backscattering spectroscopy (LEBS) techniques developed by researchers from Northwestern University and Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. The results are from the most recent clinical trial of the light-scattering analytical techniques, a trial that has shown the minimally invasive method for detecting pancreatic cancer is also able to differentiate other types of dangerous and benign pancreatic lesions without actually sampling pancreatic tissue.

Credit: Northwestern University


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Illustration showing the pancreatic duct, duodenum, sampling site and tumor.

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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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

 

Call-in program to discuss new research results moderated by Richard McCourt of NSF.

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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

 

Illustration showing how light bouncing off human tissue can be used to detect potential cancer.

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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Photo of one of the systems researchers use to analyze potentially cancerous tissue.

After doctors take samples of duodenum tissue from patients, they analyze the tissue using sophisticated equipment like this apparatus in the laboratory of Vadim Backman at Northwestern University.

Credit: Northwestern University


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Photo of Vadim Backman with some of the equipment he uses to detect cancer.

NSF CAREER awardee Vadim Backman of Northwestern University has helped develop a technique for safely detecting pancreatic cancer and other potentially dangerous pancreatic diseases.

Credit: Northwestern University


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