Washington: Scientists have developed a sophisticated new optical imaging tool to capture "astonishing" live images of tumours that enables them to look deep within the cancer cells.
The technique will track the movement of molecules, cells, and fluids within tumours; examine abnormalities in the blood vessel network inside them; and help scientists observe how the tumours were affected by treatments.
Scientists seeking new ways to fight cancer often try to understand the subtle, often invisible, changes to DNA, proteins, cells, and tissue that alter the body's normal biology and cause disease.
The new techniques, created by Dai Fukumura and his long-term collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, combine two different high-tech optical imaging methods that were custom-built for the research.
One is called multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM), which is an advanced fluorescence imaging technology that is now commercially available at the high end of the microscope market.
The other is called optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), which images tissues by their light scattering properties.
According to Fukumura, OFDI is gaining popularity in the optical imaging field but has yet to become commercially available.
"MPLSM overcomes many of the limitations from which conventional microscopy and confocal microscopy suffer, and OFDI provides robust large volume imaging data," Fukumura said.
The unique technique can image tumours inside and out, and show detailed pictures of live tumours - images that he and colleagues call "astonishing."
Fukumura added that while the new combined approach would be too expensive to be used for routine diagnostic purposes, it promises to help researchers better understand the intricate workings of human cancer and aid in drug discovery to treat cancer.
"These optical imaging approaches can provide unprecedented insights in the biology and mechanisms of cancer," he said.
The experiments will be described at a meeting of The Optical Society's (OSA) in Orlando, Florida.