Portugal proves optical techniques in early cancer diagnosis

Portugal’s University of Coimbra (UC) says its researchers have proven optical techniques to be effective in early diagnosis of cancer.

The research focused on vibrational spectroscopy, a non-invasive and highly sensitive technique using laser or infrared radiation, and aims to “assist clinicians in the early detection of tumors and assessment of surgical margins,” the UC said in a press release.

Current diagnostic techniques for cancer are based on morphological changes, meaning changes in the shape of cells and their environment that allow pathologists to determine whether they are normal, dysplastic (altered), or neoplastic (cancerous), the UC said.

The techniques proposed in the new study, known as “VIBSonCANCER — diagnosis of cancer at a molecular level by vibrational spectroscopy,” show chemical information and changes at the chemical level that appear before morphological changes, which would enable doctors to make an early diagnosis, according to the university.

“Our techniques do not replace the current ones, nor do they intend to do so. What we want is to provide information that is not possible to obtain by other methods,” said Maria Paula Marques, the project leader.

The techniques, which make it possible to see and analyze changes in the chemical composition of proteins or lipids for example, are already in clinical use at hospitals in the Netherlands, England and Canada in their pilot studies.

Scientists are also working on a prototype, hoping to use these new diagnostic methods to improve the chance of success for chemotherapy and help develop personalized, more effective cancer treatments, said the UC. ■

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