Detecting cancer earlier is goal of new medical imaging technology

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A new medical imaging method being developed at Rutgers University could help physicians detect cancer and other diseases earlier than before, speeding treatment and reducing the need for invasive, time-consuming biopsies.

The potentially lifesaving technique uses nanotechnology to reveal small cancerous tumors and cardiovascular lesions deep inside the body. It is showing promise in early tests by Rutgers researchers in the schools of engineering and pharmacy.

The Rutgers scientists, who published initial results of their work in the July issue of the journal Nature Communications, were recently awarded a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, part of the National Institutes of Health, to advance their research.

“Our new mode of fluorescent imaging aims not only to reveal diseases earlier, but also to learn more about the diseases before performing surgery,” said Prabhas Moghe, the lead researcher on the project and distinguished professor of biomedical engineering and chemical and biochemical engineering. “I like to think of it as an optical biopsy.”

“This technique could eventually be used to accurately determine whether a newly detected cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, which should help a surgeon deal with the full extent of disease during a single surgery,” said Shridar Ganesan, associate director for Translational Science at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and clinical advisor for the project. Currently a surgeon who can’t tell how far a cancer has spread may do lymph node biopsies and wait a day for results and then perform a second surgery if needed, with its attendant trauma, risks and costs.

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