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Broadband Infrared Spectroscopy to Tackle Disease Detection

Dr. M. Zigman, Fakultät für Physik, LMU München

Cancer ensues when a single living cell acquires the capacity to reproduce without control in the human body, proliferates aggressively and invades other tissues. Increased ­ sensitivity and fidelity of early cancer detection, and a better quantitative understanding of the initial changes that drive tumor growth at the molecular level are paramount to advance current medical anti-cancer strategies.

At the crossroads of laser physics and cancer biology we are exploring the application of molecular spectroscopy based on a powerful broadband femtosecond infrared laser source, together with time-domain metrology for quantitative vibrational spectroscopy to cancer detection. This will allow us to detect very early cancerous changes — by quantitatively defining changes in characteristic absorptional fingerprints of biomolecules and metabolites originating from living human tissues. The ability to quantify pathological cancerous changes fundamental to cancer biology will enable us to provide robust quantitative molecular, cellular and metabolic snapshots to reveal the earliest pathological transitions in the human body in vivo.

It is this unique merge of laser-based technologies with biological and medical paradigms that promises to extend our understanding of fundamental principles in cancer biology. In the future, we expect our approach to have an impact on clinically relevant methods for cancer detection and therapy monitoring in patients.