Endoscope pairs optical, optoacoustic methods to diagnose esophageal cancer earlier

A research project is working to develop a hybrid endoscope for early diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2017 03 Msot Tumor Web

The Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München (Munich, Germany) is leading a research project working to develop a hybrid endoscope for early diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer.

Related: New microendoscope doubles sensitivity of esophageal cancer screenings

The project, named Hybrid Optical and Optoacoustic Endoscope for Esophageal Tracking (ESOTRAC), involves designing a device that aims to reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies and, importantly, facilitate early-disease detection. This should lead to earlier start of therapy, which improves therapeutic efficacy over late-disease treatment and, eventually, allow immense cost savings for the healthcare system.

The current method for detection esophageal cancer uses white-light endoscopy or random tissue biopsies, followed by histopathological analysis of excised tissue. Because of limitations of the current detection methods, esophageal cancer is typically detected at an advanced stage, which is treated surgically and attains poor survival prognosis.

So ESOTRAC, a four-year research program bringing together engineers and physicians, aims to significantly improve the detection of early-stage esophageal cancer. The interdisciplinary, five-country research team will develop an innovative endoscope that combines sensing of pathophysiological tissue signatures resolved by multispectral optoacoustic (also known as photoacoustic) tomography (MSOT) with morphological disease signatures provided by optical coherence tomography (OCT). The resulting system will operate in label-free mode and, because of its tomographic ability, visualize sub-surface tissue features to provide superior information of the esophageal wall compared to conventional video endoscopes. This comprehensive sub-surface information is expected to detect early-stage esophageal cancer and enable disease staging, neither of which can be done reliably. The novel endoscope can be further useful in reducing the number of unnecessary biopsies by providing more accurate guidance to suspicious areas over white-light endoscopy.

Content Dam Bow Online Articles 2017 03 Msot Tumor Web
New imaging technologies allow earlier diagnosis of tumors. (Image credit: Murad Omar/Helmholtz Zentrum München)

The device developed by ESOTRAC promises to change the landscape of gastroenterological endoscopy by allowing rapid 3D imaging of the entire esophageal wall, as well as quantification of disease biomarkers. Since one of the goals of ESOTRAC is to offer quantitative metrics of esophageal cancer—toward personalized medicine—the device may help equalize the quality of endoscopy-based care in rural and urban settings.

The ESOTRAC endoscope will also be built to be as small and patient-friendly as possible, reducing the risk of gag reflex and, therefore, the need for sedation. In these ways, ESOTRAC aims to create an endoscope that can be widely deployed in gastroenterology clinics. At the same time, the lessons learned in building the endoscope may help guide the design of next-generation imaging devices for other body cavities, including the colon.

ESOTRAC has been awarded €4 million (over $4.2 million) from Horizon 2020, the EU framework program for research and innovation.

For more information, please visit http://cordis.europa.eu.

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