MEDx and Duke Cancer Center fund pilot project to improve GI cancer detection


MEDx and the Duke Cancer Center awarded funds for a year-long pilot study to Deborah Fisher, M.D., M.H.S. and Katherine Garman, M.D., M.S. of the Department of Medicine; Naomi Ferguson, M.D., and Shannon McCall, M.D., of the Department of Pathology; and Nan Jokerst, Ph.D., the J.A. Jones Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Their project, “Development of a multispectral endoscopic optical sensor for detection of gastrointestinal cancer and dysplasia,” will study human colon tissue and improve the detection and characterization of gastrointestinal (GI) cancer and precancer.

Detecting and surveilling disease progression in epithelial tissues early on is key to improving long-term patient outcomes for colon and esophageal cancers, which account for nearly a quarter of cancer-related mortalities worldwide. Current methods to detect cancer in high-risk GI tissues involve random biopsies, which isn’t efficient, requiring frequent repeat procedures. This team is investigating spatially resolved diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (SRDRS), which is a non-invasive optical technique used to sense biological changes at the cellular and sub-cellular level that occur when normal tissue becomes diseased. They will develop the first custom thin film silicon SRDRS device to enable endoscopic SRDRS GI tissue characterization. The hope is this device will work as an aid to visualize cancer and precancer more reliably and create more efficient and effective disease surveillance.