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Imaging technology captures tumor growth in real time

Researchers soon will unveil an imaging method that documents developing tumors at the molecular level.

This image shows a tumor before (top) and five days after (bottom) anti-angiogenic treatment, which inhibits blood vessel growth. Nature Medicine

Using two high-tech imaging techniques custom-built for their field, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School will unveil a new method for examining tumor growth at theFrontiers in Optics annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., in October.

Multiphoton laser-scanning microscopy (MPLSM) and optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI) combine to give scientists the ability to look deeply inside tumors in real time, revealing extremely detailed pictures of live tumors as they grow. MPLSM is an advanced fluorescence-imaging technology, and OFDI captures tissues using their light-scattering properties.

Unfortunately, the method that creates what the researchers call "astonishing" images is prohibitively expensive -- too expensive to be used for routine diagnostics, anyway, said researcher Dai Fukumura, an associate professor of radiation oncology at Harvard. Still, it could be used in research to help scientists better understand tumors and their treatment.

"MPLSM overcomes many of the limitations from which conventional microscopy and confocal microscopy suffer, and OFDI provides robust large-volume imaging data," Fukumura said in a news release. "These optical imaging approaches can provide unprecedented insights in the biology and mechanisms of cancer."

The method, even if used only in research labs, could reveal more about how various types of cancer react at a molecular level to a range of environments, conditions, and treatments.

The researchers will share more images at the meeting in Orlando on October 9 at 4:15 p.m. ET.