Radioactive Glow Highlights Cancer Cells

Cherenkov radiation imaging with endoscopes detects very early cancers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Endoscopes are tube-like devices used to examine the area from the mouth to the stomach, and are useful for checking for several types of cancers. Visible light is helpful to see major changes but can miss important warning signs.

A presentation at the American Chemical Society introduced a new endoscopic technology which uses the blue glow from a type of light caused by Cherenkov radiation.

The technique, called Cherenkov Luminescence Endoscopy (CLE) enhances the tissue, making abnormal areas stand out much more clearly when examined by endoscope.

"Ask your oncologist about new imaging techniques."

Cherenkov radiation is a form of ionizing radiation and refers to the light emitted by the travel of radioactive substances through water or in this case, tissue. It can also show areas of unusual metabolism in cells.

Zhen Cheng, Ph.D., working at Stanford University, led the research presentation which showed that use of Cerenkov luminescence can dramatically enhance imaging resolution and clarity.

In theory, CLE will help surgeons find cancers that might have been missed with normal techniques.

Conclusions presented by Cheng found that CLE combines the advantages of molecular imaging with the inexpensive and easy to use nature of endoscopy. The future use of CLE should improve early detection of abnormal cells, leading to early intervention in areas susceptible to cancer.

An important footnote to this research is to state that there are always a risk in using ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation has been directly connected to DNA damage, which in turn has been directly connected to the development of cancer.

X-rays, CT scans, radionucleotides, and the CLE mentioned in this article all use radiation to enhance imaging. On the other hand, MRI technology uses magnetic, non-ionizing radiation.

Research was presented at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the world's largest scientific group, the American Chemical Society.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Canary Foundation, the Center for Biomedical Imaging at Stanford and the group Friends for an Earlier Breast Cancer Test.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 28, 2012
Last Updated:
March 29, 2012