"We have found that it is possible to resolve the fine structure of tissue using a time-resolved fluorescent measurement. This enables us to identify the chemical composition of different layers of epithelial tissue," he said.
Cancer tissue and normal tissue emit different responses. The ability to accurately interpret these responses and confirming the presence of cancer cells will bring medical benefits in terms of more accurate diagnoses and tissue pathology. It will also facilitate surgical planning.
The investigative studies are based on optical technology which, until recently, was not considered applicable to tissue diagnosis. The latest studies to emerge from HKUST have shown that the light emissions from tissue cells will vary depending on the various components of body tissue.
"With further refinement, we are confident that our system will be able to highlight components – good and bad – and identify specific cancers at very early stage," says Professor Qu.
"Already we have demonstrated our success at isolating fluorescence signals. This has enabled us to detect early cancer cells that are not visible in an MRI, CAT scan or through endoscopes."
The mapping process now underway to identify specific cancer cells and minimise the incidence of false information is the subject of further studies financed by the Research Grants Committee. Professor Qu is confident that the ability to correctly identify forms of cancer occurring in epithelial tissue using this non-invasive process is close at hand.
"By working closely with surgeons we are able to design and produce optical instrumentation that is targeted directly to their needs. Our work allows the diagnostician and surgeon to be ever more successful as they seek diagnoses and cures for patients with cancer." Professor Qu says.
Professor Jianan Qu
Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology