MULTIPHOTON MICROSCOPY/OPTICAL COHERENCE TOMOGRAPHY: Powerhouse optical techniques combine to reveal cancer mechanisms

For the first time, researchers are able to 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. The technique promises to help researchers better understand the intricate workings of human cancer and aid in drug discovery to treat cancer.

The technique, created by Dai Fukumura MD, Ph.D., and his long-term collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (both Boston, MA), combines multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM), which is a commercially available advanced fluorescence imaging technology, and optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), a form of optical coherence tomography (OCT) that images tissues by their light scattering properties.

The new imaging tool, which combines multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM) and optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), reveals strikingly different networks of blood vessels surrounding different types of tumors in a mouse model
The new imaging tool, which combines multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM) and optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), reveals strikingly different networks of blood vessels surrounding different types of tumors in a mouse model. Left: Breast cancer in the breast. Middle: Metastatic breast cancer in the brain. Right: Ectopic breast cancer in the skin. (Image courtesy of Nature Medicine)

"MPLSM overcomes many of the limitations from which conventional microscopy and confocal microscopy suffer, and OFDI provides robust large volume imaging data," said Fukumura, adding that while the new 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 said. The research was presented at Frontiers in Optics 2013 (presentation FW5A.2, "Dissecting Tumor Biology Using Intravital Microscopy and Optical Frequency Domain Imaging").

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