Diagnosis & Treatment
General Oncology

Laser weapon: German researchers destroy tumors with light

Laser weapon: German researchers destroy tumors with light

German scientists propose a new method for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer: laser radiation makes tumor tissue visible.

Innovative technology can provide real-time information to the surgical team to safely identify the edges of the tumor and decide how much tissue to cut.

Cancer affects almost every second person at some point in their lives.

This is the second most common cause of death in Europe.

But the sooner the disease is diagnosed, the greater the chance of survival.

A joint research team from several of the largest centers of Germany presented a unique method for the rapid, accurate and safe detection of tumors using laser radiation. This was one of the main events of the exhibition “Laser World of Photonics”, which takes place in Munich on June 24-27, 2019.

For the first time, the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT) presented a compact device for rapid intraoperative diagnosis of cancer. Optical technology will help surgeons more accurately remove tumors and make possible surgical treatment of cancer without a scalpel.

It may take up to four weeks to make sure that the tumor is completely removed during surgery. This is a period of excruciating uncertainty, during which any remaining tumor cells can multiply again.

What is the working principle of new laser technology?

A team of scientists from Jena has long developed a diagnostic procedure that could revolutionize intraoperative diagnosis.

Using a laser, researchers visualize tumor tissue.

Their beam "highlights" suspicious areas in real time to safely identify the smallest tumors and edges of the tumor.

This was made possible by a compact microscope developed by a research team from the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT), the Friedrich Schiller University, the University Hospital and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena.

The microscope combines three imaging techniques and generates high-resolution spatial images of internal structures using tissue samples during surgery.

Software visualizes templates and molecular details that are processed using artificial intelligence.

Automatic analysis is faster and promises a more reliable result than the current standard diagnosis of frozen sections, which can only be done by an experienced pathologist.

New cancer diagnosis method saves money

The optical diagnostics procedure, for which scientists were awarded the prestigious Kaiser Friedrich Prize in 2018, helps prevent repeated surgical interventions. This greatly increases chances of recovery.

After five years, a compact microscope may appear in German oncology clinics, predicts Professor Jürgen Popp, scientific director of Leibniz-IPHT, who developed a laser rapid test.

The German health care system can save a significant amount of money thanks to laser technology.

Laser radiation makes tumor tissue visible

Residual cancer cells are detected approximately after every tenth surgery on head and neck tumors.

“One minute in the operating room is the most expensive minute in the entire work of the hospital,” explains Professor Orlando Guntinas-Lichius, director of the Department of Otolaryngology at the University Hospital Jena.

Researchers at the University Hospital Jena are already thinking about the future. They are working on a method of using the unique properties of light to identify tumors in the body at an early stage and remove them immediately.

“That's why we need new technologies that no longer work with rigid optics, but with flexible endoscopes,” says Jürgen Popp.

Gentle diagnosis and treatment of cancer is on the way

These fiber-optic probes are manufactured by Leibniz-IPHT based on glass fibers thinner than a human hair. They open the way to minimally invasive medicine – gentle diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Gentle diagnosis and treatment of cancer is on the way

Then the doctors no longer need to cut with a scalpel, but it would be possible to remove the tumor layer by layer under the laser beam to completely rid the patient of the tumor.

“In ten to fifteen years, the research team wants to work out a solution. This will be a giant step in a completely new diagnosis and treatment of cancer”, says Jürgen Popp.

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