Using biophotonics to destroy
cancer cells with pinpoint accuracy
Using optical techniques to conduct complex examinations, such as on the eyes, and laser-based surgery are now considered routine procedures. However, dramatic progress is still expected in the field of biophotonics research. For example, in the future it will be possible to precisely analyze cancer cells while examining a patient without having to take a tissue sample. Destroying cancer cells or bacteria without almost any side effects is also conceivable. These and other recent trends will be the focus of the World of Photonics Congress from May 12 - 16, 2013 and the international trade fair LASER World of PHOTONICS 2013 from May 13 - 16, both at the Messe München trade-fair center.
One of the fair's highlights is a special show organized by the research group "Forschungsschwerpunkt Biophotonik". Founded in 2002 and funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Research, the initiative will present the highlights in biophotonics research of the last decade at its stand (Stand B1.340) in Hall B1. Examples include using super-resolution light nanoscopy to examine living cells or techniques to identify bacteria early and improve hygiene in hospitals.
According to Dr. Carsten M. Philipp, President of the German Association for Laser Medicine and Chief Senior Physician in the Laser Medicine Department at the Evangelical Elisabeth Clinic in Berlin, the primary focus of biophotonics research currently lies on diagnostic methods: "Photonics techniques make it possible to characterize and depict groups of cells, i.e. to differentiate between sick and healthy cells in living organisms - on location, without taking tissue samples, and practically 'on the fly', i.e. in real time." Expectations are primarily based on three mutually complementary approaches: optical coherence tomography (OCT), confocal and 2-photon microscopy, and Raman spectroscopy.
Long journey from the
laboratory to clinical applications
These techniques already work in the laboratory. According to Dr. Ronald Sroka, the challenge is to develop clinic-capable devices based on these techniques that can be integrated into endoscopes. The physicist is in charge of the Laser Research Laboratory at the LIFE Center of the LMU University Clinic in Munich, where he is working on new techniques of this type. He is also Secretary General of the German Association for Laser Medicine (DGLM). According to researchers, the greatest advantages lie in using these techniques in minimally invasive procedures. At LASER World of PHOTONICS, Philipp and Sroka will chair an Application Panel with practical lectures in Hall B1 in which the DGLM puts the latest research trends and physicians' needs up for discussion (May 14, 10:00 - 13:00). Other lecture series will focus on topics such as optical diagnostics and ophthalmology (May 13, 14:00 - 17:00), lasers for analysis and imaging in biophotonics (May 14, 14:00 - 17:00) and "Visions for future diagnostics - Endoscopy" (May 15, 10:00 - 13:00).
Analyzing cancer cells
directly in the patient's body
It is already possible to mark tumors such as those in the bladder with substances that accumulate in tumor cells and can be made fluorescent using special light. This allows the physician to determine a location where it makes sense to take a biopsy. However, taking tissue samples may be replaced by the "optical biopsy" in the future. In this case, the doctor uses optical coherence tomography (OCT) to examine the tissue at the suspicious location. This technique, which is well known in ophthalmology, makes it possible to examine even non-transparent tissue at a depth of 1 to 2 millimeters. This would allow physicians to immediately determine whether the tumor cells have broken through to deeper tissue layers and if there is a threat of metastases.
In the future, one could even determine how dangerous the tumor is during the same bladder examination. The physician conducting the examination selects a probe that is equipped for endoscopic applications in confocal or 2-photon microscopy. Under the direction of the Laser Research Laboratory at the University Clinic in Munich, the T.E.A.M. clinic group has successfully examined the structures of cells up to 100 micrometers deep in the tissue. New developments in 2-photon endo-microscopy could even allow them to see up to 1,000 micrometers into the tissue. Endoscopic probes for Raman spectroscopic examinations could provide additional important information about the metabolism of tumor cells.
Using photodynamic therapy
to destroy tumor cells and bacteria
These techniques will also play an important role in diagnoses in other parts of the body such as the trachea and esophagus. Early recognition of tumors there is difficult using classic techniques, explains Dr. Christian S. Betz, Senior Physician and Lecturer at the ENT Clinic at the University in Munich. Betz is one of the founders of the Head and Neck Optical Diagnostics Society (HNODS). Fluorescence imaging or so-called narrow band imaging could be used to find conspicuous mucosal areas in at-risk patients more easily than using endoscopy alone, explains Betz, describing the prospects. HNODS members will discuss these and similar topics at their annual conference. For the first time ever, the 2013 HNODS conference is an official partner of the ECBO (European Conferences on Biomedical Optics) and is being held in conjunction with the World of Photonics Congress. The ECBO addresses scientists, engineers and physicians that use optical and photonics techniques for medical diagnostics and therapy.
Thanks to photonics, revolutionary techniques are also being developed for therapy. Dr. Philipp cited photodynamic therapy as an option for the future. In this case, a medication that is activated by light (photo sensitizer) is applied to the sick tissue or bacteria as selectively as possible. Under the effect of light at a certain wavelength, the medication develops its cell-destroying capability.
The latest biophotonics techniques such as optical coherence tomography, clinical and biomedical spectroscopy and therapeutic laser applications will also be the focus of the ECBO from May 12 - 16. Organized by the Optical Society of America (OSA) and the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the ECBO (European Conferences on Biomedical Optics) attempts to bridge the gap between clinicians, engineers and scientists in order to find answers to questions in medicine and biophotonics and pave the way to the patient.
LASER World of PHOTONICS 2013
from 13 to 16 May 2013, Fair ground Munich (Germany)
Images: R. Eberhard, messekompakt, EBERHARD print & medien agentur gmbh
Source: Messe Munich