Bioimaging combo approach captures live images of growing tumors

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA) and Harvard Medical School (Cambridge, MA) has developed an optical imaging tool that enables scientists to look deep within tumors and uncover their inner workings. The approach can track the movement of molecules, cells, and fluids within tumors; examine abnormalities in the blood vessel network inside them; and observe how the tumors were affected by treatments.

Related: Biophotonics enables early and accurate cancer diagnosis

The new optical imaging tool reveals strikingly different networks of blood vessels surrounding different types of tumors in a mouse model: Breast cancer in the breast (left); metastatic breast cancer in the brain (center); and ectopic breast cancer in the skin (right)
The new optical imaging tool reveals strikingly different networks of blood vessels surrounding different types of tumors in a mouse model: Breast cancer in the breast (left); metastatic breast cancer in the brain (center); and ectopic breast cancer in the skin (right). (Image courtesy of Nature Medicine)

The approach, created by Dai Fukumura and his long-term collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, combines multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM), which is an advanced fluorescence imaging technology that is now commercially available at the high end of the microscope market. The other is called optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), which images tissues by their light scattering properties. According to Fukumura, OFDI is gaining popularity in the optical imaging field, but has yet to become commercially available.   

"MPLSM overcomes many of the limitations from which conventional microscopy and confocal microscopy suffer, and OFDI provides robust large volume imaging data," Fukumura says.

A tumor before (top) and five days after (bottom) anti-angiogenic treatment—a novel treatment approach by inhibiting blood vessel growth
A tumor before (top) and five days after (bottom) anti-angiogenic treatment—a novel treatment approach by inhibiting blood vessel growth. (Image courtesy of Nature Medicine)

Fukumura adds that while the new combined approach would be too expensive to be used for routine diagnostic purposes, it promises to help researchers better understand the intricate workings of human cancer and aid in drug discovery to treat cancer. "These optical imaging approaches can provide unprecedented insights in the biology and mechanisms of cancer," he says.

For more information, please visit http://www.opticsinfobase.org/abstract.cfm?URI=FiO-2013-FW5A.2.

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