Near-Infrared Light System Can Track Down Small Tumors

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It is a well-known fact that several types of cancer could be treated better if the doctors would be able to track down small tumors before they reach an advanced stage. A new technique using near-infrared light might be able to do that.

The new imaging system created by researchers from MIT could be used to localize small tumors, even if they are smaller than a few hundred cells. The method relies on a near-infrared light system which it was able to accurately track a 0.1-millimeter prove located in the digestive system of a living mouse. Other tests showed that it could send a signal at a depth of 8 centimeters, which is considerably better in comparison to existing optical imaging techniques.

The researchers plan to adapt the technology so it can be used to diagnose ovarian cancer and other cancer types before they can spread throughout the body. The non-invasive method could be a real life-changer for many patients.

Near-Infrared Light System Can Track Down Small Tumors

Current imaging methods are quite limited when it comes to early cancer diagnoses. In most cases, the methods are limited by the balance between the depth of imaging and the quality of the image which is provided by the procedure. The current technology is not able to go beyond 3 centimeters. X-ray computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging can penetrate the entire body, but they are unable to find the tumors before they reach at least 1 centimeter in size.

The project began a few years ago, an, over time, a scientist from the Koch Institute joined the MIT researchers. The aim was to provide a solution which was able to scan small groups of cells without the need to resort to radioactive elements.

Near-infrared light was chosen because the wavelengths aren’t affected by the impact with an object, a trait which allows them to reach deeper areas. Several tests were used to observe the efficiency of the new method and the results appear to be quite promising.