Cancer is one of the most terrifying words that can come out of a doctor’s mouth. The thought of seeing a loved one or yourself endure months of chemotherapy or radiation only to die a few months later leaves our senses numb. However, waiting to have the diagnosis confirmed or dismissed can also take its toll.
My wife and I were forced to view this possibility when she was called back to the women’s center after having a routine mammogram. It took two weeks for the follow up appointments and all that time we remembered what her mother, cousin, and nieces had suffered through. Fortunately for us, the results were benign and we have been able to move past this experience.
Another particularly vicious type of cancer is melanoma, or skin cancer. Skin cancer often develops as the result of tissues breaking away from a cancerous growth and then flowing in the blood vessels, thus helping melanoma to propagate throughout the body. Discovering these distributing growth cells (CTCs), however, can be like searching for a particular hook in a collection of tiny needles. This is because one cubic centimeter of blood flow contains about five billion red blood flow cells, 10,000 bright blood flow cells, and only 10 growth cells.
However, melanoma recognition and treatment is an individual’s best chance of surviving this dreaded enemy since its spread is accountable for cancer metastasizing, resulting in 90 percent of melanoma fatalities. Aware of the need to more quickly and accurately measure blood flow assessments, scientists have dedicated years of research and development time to finding a reliable method for ascertaining these results. At this point, they are aware that they need an effective way to spot CTCs before they can form new malignancies. However, this requires discovering a means to easily analyze immeasurable, rapidly flowing blood cells in a quantity great enough to recognize the cancerous cells.
Researchers at the School of Florida, Los Angeles (UCLA) are creating a program intended to advance research in this area. The program entails bringing together a visual, minute lens, with a device for keeping track of and learning more about cell movement. They believe that this unit, along with a high-speed picture processor that can take blur-free pictures of fast-moving cells, will be a significant step toward capturing CTCs in the act.
They propose that an ultrafast minute digital camera that records pictures at about 6,000 frames per second will be at the heart of their success. This “serial time-encoded increased microscopy” (STEAM) digital camera creates pictures using a very short laser light pulse — a display of light only a billionth of a second in length. The STEAM digital camera’s shutter rate is 27 picoseconds. This is about a thousand times quicker than a current photographic digital camera. In fact, the UCLA digital camera transforms each laser light beam into a flow of data from which a high-speed picture can be constructed. The research teams then uses this technology to recognize malignant breast cells in a blood flow example.
These tests are not limited to breast material, however, as scientists are now also doing scientific examining on bronchi, stomach, prostate, and abdominal melanomas as well as on other patient’s liquid blood samples. Long term: they want to also be able to easily identify additional melanoma types, such as ovarian and pancreatic malignancies, which are fast-spreading and require quick recognition for an individual to survive the cancer.
Such a blood flow analysis could provide a more secure and more precise alternative to mammography and other image quality assessments as well as a less stressful testing period, which can currently include excruciating biopsies. Additionally, this method appears superior to the current MRI and calculated tomography (CT) tests that are limited to locating bigger malignancies, which means that, for individuals with a poor diagnosis, there may not be enough time for treatment after growth is recognized.
Another approach is to have researchers use a combination of microscopy and spectroscopy to scrutinize how that light is reflected. Fluctuations in the reflections could point to possible abnormalities in the sampled tissues. This could also show the presence of unhealthy cells.
This groundbreaking experimentation could one day lead to a faster and more accurate way to determine cancer in a patient and could result in more successful treatments. For anyone who has suffered themselves or had a friend or family member diagnosed with this horrible, unseen disease, we know how serious diagnosing cancer can be. We are also aware that the sooner the cancer is found and the quicker the treatment starts, the better the odds are for surviving.
My prayer is that none of you reading this article will ever have to worry about its contents, but that you will be wiser for having read it.
Source: Scientific American
CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Hippy Jon