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Ovarian Cancer Imaging System Reaches Milestone

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Ovarian Cancer Imaging System Reaches Milestone

Oct. 30, 2013
UA researchers are fine-tuning a holographic instrument to diagnose the 'silent killer' during laparoscopic procedures and screenings.

Raymond Kostuk, who holds a joint appointment in the UA College of Engineering’s electrical and computer engineering department and in the College of Optical sciences, and his research team have developed a bench-top version of an instrument capable of detecting ovarian cancer, a disease often referred to as the “silent killer” because it presents no symptoms until it is highly advanced.

The bench-top version of the volume holographic imaging system, which shows promise for detecting ovarian cancer in situ, uses specialized holographic components in a microscope to generate images capable of detecting subtle tissue microstructure changes as well as fluorescent biochemical signatures.

Working with Dr. Kenneth Hatch, of the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine, and his consenting patients, as well as with researchers in the BIO5 Institute, Kostuk and his co-investigator, Jennifer Barton, who now holds the position of associate vice president for research at the UA, have completed a study of cancerous and noncancerous ovarian tissue in which the imaging system successfully identified abnormal spatial and spectral markers of cancerous ovarian tissue removed during surgery.

Now the research team is working on a miniature endoscopic version that further enhances imagery, achieves even greater contrast, and is capable of reliably diagnosing ovarian cancer in real time during noninvasive laparoscopic procedures and screenings.

“The instrument is cost effective, easy to use, and holds the promise of saving lives,” said Kostuk.

Only 45 percent of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer live more than five years after diagnosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Surviving ovarian cancer, which spreads quickly and is known to attack generations of women in genetically predisposed families, depends on early diagnosis. To date, there is no single effective screening test for ovarian cancer. Noninvasive imaging methods lack sufficient resolution to detect ovarian cancer, so surgically removing affected tissue is the only way to diagnose the rapidly progressive disease. The result is that more than 50 percent of women with ovarian cancer are diagnosed in late stages of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health has provided significant funding for the research, and Kostuk is in the process of seeking renewed funding. Patents and invention disclosures have attracted the attention of several investment groups.

“Commercialization of the instrumentation may not be far off,” Kostuk said.