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Breakthrough in fight against cancer

CG render of T-cells in shallow depth of field

|3 April 2017|


An innovative new technology offering quicker and more accurate detection of cancers could be available to clinicians within a decade.

Developed by Professor Chris Phillips, from Imperial College London, Digistain uses mid-infrared light to produce images which a computer program can analyse to detect the severity of cancer. It is a significant advance on the current method where doctors view biopsies under a microscope to estimate the stage of cancer. A system which has been shown to lead to wide variations between medical professionals assessing the same sample.

Digistain, which has been proved to work on breast cancer tissue, would be a game-changer in the early detection of cancer of gullet cancer – oesophageal cancer – which has only a 15% survival rate.

To better combat this cancer, Professor Phillips has joined forces with with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald’s, from the University of Cambridge. Professor Fitzgerald developed the pioneering ‘pill on a string‘ Cytosponge technology. Combining the two would be a major advance in the fight against oesophageal cancer. Using the Cytosponge to gather cell samples which would then be sent to the lab and imaged with Digistain would radically improve the assessment process.

And thanks to a £246,552 award from the Royal Society Innovation Award Digistain will be able to move from a proven novel concept to a life saving product.

Professor Phillips told Imperial News: “This award is invaluable for helping us in crossing the ‘valley of death’. Firstly the freedom that we can spend it makes it a really effective lubricant in a complex enterprise like this that involves many parties; secondly that fact that constitutes the imprimatur of some of the nation’s best scientific entrepreneurs really impresses investors.”

According to Imperial News, the team believe this could ultimately lead to a “national screening program similar to the smear test”.

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