Upgraded Endoscope Can Target Cancerous Tumors
A marriage between the endoscope and a new field of medical imaging — Cerenkov Luminescence Imaging (CLI) — may allow surgeons to more completely remove cancerous tumors. The technique, called Cerenkov Luminescence Endoscopy (CLE), offers advantages over both traditional endoscopic and imaging techniques, like MRI, by providing information about the functioning of the tissue, said Zhen Cheng, Ph.D., who led the research, presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. This research is also an example of a an ongoing focus on theranostics (combining therapeutics and diagnostics), though it's important to note that this "upgraded" endoscope wouldn't treat the tumors directly — just help surgeons get a better look.
CLE relies on a phenomenon observed in nuclear power reactors: a soft blue glow in the cooling water that results form interactions that occur when invisible particles from the nuclear reaction in the core move through the water faster than the speed of light in water. CLI, an imaging technique based on harnessing this effect in devices that do not involve nuclear power reactors, has been used to produce images of organs and to guide surgery in laboratory animals, resulting in the removal of remaining cancer cells that otherwise would have been invisible to surgeons. It has also improved the resolution of PET scans, and is compatible with available optical imaging instruments and a wide selection of the nuclear imaging agents that doctors use to make structures in the body visible.
However, one drawback of CLI is that weak blue light, unlike the X-rays in other medical scans, barely penetrates through deep tissues — where many tumors develop in areas deep inside the body. By pairing this imaging technique with the ability of endoscopes to penetrate deep tissue, Cheng may have hit upon a method of utilizing the best of both worlds. CLE's transition from lab to operating room may occur in the next few years. Researchers anticipate that the transition should be smooth, since CLE is similar to traditional endoscopy, and is highly compatible with conventional endoscopic imaging requirements.
Related: Learn about another theranostics-related development: a system that aims to detect and treat tumors using microwaves.