Molecular therapy is a non-invasive form of cancer treatment that combines medical optics with targeted drug delivery. The Optics in Medicine Laboratory is examining how this therapy can be used to treat types of cancer with high fatality rates, like glioblastoma multiforme and pancreatic cancer. By targeting the receptor activity of these tumors, this form of treatment targets the tumors and minimizes damage to the healthy tissue surrounding the infected area.
A number of the imaging techniques used in this treatment approach are also used to map the receptor uptake of cancerous tumors. In developing these imaging techniques, Dartmouth researchers are working to create more accurate maps of extracellular protein signaling by utilizing more ligand molecules during the imaging process. When combined with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)—an imaging method used to create structural models of these tumors—these molecular imaging techniques provide researchers with data sets that accurately map the receptor uptake of cancer tumors.
The research of graduate student Robert Holt deals with the optimization of fluorescence tomography, a molecular imaging technique that uses laser light to recover the distribution of fluorescent molecules in tissue. In addition to developing a method to improve image reconstruction of tracer uptake quantification with Research Associate Ken Tichauer, Robert is also optimizing the placement of imaging detectors in a fluorescence tomography instrument that the Optics in Medicine Laboratory is developing.
Currently, the Optics in Medicine Laboratory is testing a probe prototype that uses fluorescence agent as well as molecules of human epidermal growth factor (EGF) to measure the EGF uptake of cells in vivo. This diagnostic method allows researchers to locate microinvasive tumors that are difficult to diagnose through the use of traditional MR imaging techniques. This Magnetic Resonance-guided Optical (MRgO) instrument provides 4 layer volumetric data of fluorescence tomography to researchers, and has the ability to overlay visualization for the entire tumor. Once this prototype is approved for use in clinical settings, these data sets will increase the effectiveness of molecular-based cancer therapy.