On the spot

A non-invasive imaging technology could help diagnose and fight skin cancer, according to Norwegian research.

Trude Stoeren, a research fellow at the University of Trondheim, has been investigating the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) in photodynamic cancer therapy (PDT) and believes the detailed images derived from OCT could lend themselves to far more effective treatment.

Conventional techniques such as x-rays, magnetic fields and soundwaves, are all successful methods for obtaining internal images, but are not as effective when it comes to creating an image of what is happening just under the skin. For example, x-rays cannot reveal the early stages of skin cancer.

OCT works on the same principle as ultrasound, but uses infrared light waves, which reflect off the internal microstructures within biological tissue; it can obtain high-resolution images to the accuracy of one micron. The result is a real-time cross-sectional, or 3D, image.

With PDT, a photosensitive dye is applied either topically or intravenously, and a light shone on to the area requiring treatment. When the dye is exposed to light, it releases oxygen, killing the cancer cells.

But the dye must be in exactly the right location to be effective, and it is this area of the treatment that Stoeren believes her work on OCT will benefit.

‘OCT is a technique you can use for a number of purposes, and we believe one of the applications could be developing PDT,’ said Stoeren, who has been looking into the specific characteristics of tissue to gauge how the rays should be set, the strength of radiation needed for images, and its potential benefits to PDT.