Technology | February 02, 2010

Fluorescent Laser Used to Detect Colon Cancer


February 2, 2010– Doctors can now use light to optically scan tissue and provide immediate analysis of cancerous tissue.

This technique is currently being used for early detection of pre-cancers and cancers during colonoscopy procedures by Dr. Andreas Stallmach, department of internal medicine II, division of gastroenterology, hepatology and infectious disease, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany. The system Dr. Stallmach is planning to use, the WavSTAT Optical Biopsy System with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). According to Dr. Stallmach, in patients with IBD the differentiation between pre-malignant and inflammatory lesions can be difficult. This is why he will test the WavSTAT optical biopsy system in these patients.

Using the principle of laser induced fluorescence (LIF), diseased or cancerous tissue fluoresces differently compared to normal healthy tissue. Diseased tissue has reduced fluorophors which, when analyzed by a specialized detector, can indicate with high sensitivity that the cells are becoming dysplastic, a precursor to cancer. During colonoscopy, a small fiber-optic probe is directed by the clinician to touch the suspicious tissue. Depressing a foot switch directs low powered, safe laser light into the tissue. The laser shuts off and the tissue fluorescence light is directed back up the same fiber optic probe to a specialized detector. The system’s computer analyzes the detector’s output and, within seconds, displays a red or green light on a screen. A green light means the tissue is “normal” with 96 percent sensitivity. Where a flat polyp is suspect, multiple uses of the optical fiber and the red light may assist the clinician in determining the margin of the “suspect” tissue and remove all of it in the same procedure.

The WavSTAT used in the colon for IBD, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, has the potential to reduce the number of physical biopsies from about 60 to only a few, according to SpectraScience, the manufacturer.

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