Developing New Non-Invasive Optical Techniques for Detecting and Diagnosing Cancer

While cancer continues to affect thousands of Canadians, when detected at an early stage patients have a better chance of survival. Therefore, the development of sensitive diagnostic tools to enable early cancer detection and diagnosis is important. Dr. Anthony Lee is focusing his research efforts on the design and development of high resolution, non-invasive, in vivo optical imaging tools that will allow clinicians to perform so called ‘optical biopsies’ to detect and diagnose lung and skin cancers while the patient is being examined. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality. The only reliable way to definitively diagnose the disease is to perform a lung biopsy for histological inspection by a pathologist. This technique is invasive and is associated with numerous problems. Dr. Lee’s Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), is a technique that shows promise as a non-invasive diagnostic tool for lung cancer. Part of his project will be dedicated to developing a new OCT instrument designed specifically for use in patients’ lungs. OCT is similar in principle to ultrasound except that it uses light rather than sound as the imaging signal. It has higher resolution than ultrasound and sufficient penetration into tissue to examine the lung epithelial lining, where most cancers originate. The endoscopic probe being designed can image large segments of the bronchial tree in high resolution. Additionally, Dr. Lee is developing a Multiphoton Microscopy (MPM), instrument for use in diagnosing skin cancer, the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. MPM has microscopic resolution and will be able to create 3-dimensional volumetric images of tissue. The results of Dr. Lee’s work will provide improved diagnostic tools to replace traditional biopsies which are time and resource intensive. Moreover, if cancer diagnoses can be confirmed in situ, immediate treatment becomes a possibility and may eliminate the need for subsequent patient visits.