Improving cytology for pancreatic cancer diagnosis using novel optical microscopy

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. and has one of the worst prognoses as illustrated by essentially the same incidence (32,800) and mortality (31,800) rates and an overall 5-year survival rate <5%. As currently performed, the sensitivity of cytological diagnosis obtained through pancreatic brushings with ERCP and fine needle aspiration (FNA) are as low as 30-60% and 70%, respectively, for mass lesions in symptomatic patients and may be considerably lower for early lesions. Furthermore, one must perform at least 7 passes into the pancreatic mass, which significantly increases the risk of serious complications such as pancreatitis.

We are developing a novel optical technique, partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy, to identify pancreatic tumor cells that may appear to be normal according to the conventional cytology and would be missed by the conventional diagnosis. This methodology is supported by data in ~50 patients.

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Backman's Biophotonics Laboratory at Northwestern University

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