Pathologists have developed a new method that could speed up cancer diagnosis for all, which could be of particular use in under-resourced areas.
The technology, known as microscopy with UV surface excitation, or MUSE microscopy, won the technology category of the Astellas Oncology Changing Cancer Care (C3) Prize.
This year, the competition, which focuses on non-treatment related solutions, challenged entrants to offer ideas that could transform cancer care in low- and middle-income countries.
Richard Levenson, Professor for Strategic Technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UC Davis, developed the tool. He said: “I found it incredibly rewarding and exciting to receive a C3 Prize, particularly knowing it was not just a national, but an international award. It’s very affirming and exciting to be recognized for that.”
Prof. Levenson and colleague Dr. Sandy Borowsky won a $25,000 grant after pitching the technology to a panel of judges at the Union for International Cancer Control World Cancer Congress in Kuala Lumpur.
Talking to Change Together, the pair explained that the method had the potential to replace the traditional, time-consuming process which all cancer biopsies go through before being analyzed by a pathologist.
“To make a diagnosis of cancer, pathologists look down microscopes at pieces of tissue that have been prepared to be on a glass slide. Before a pathologist can look at this tissue, it has to go through a complicated, expensive, skill intensive process.”
MUSE microscopy, however, is different, because it uses UV light at 280 nm, a much shorter wavelength than visible light that is typically used in imaging.
“The magic here is that light at this wavelength only goes into the tissue at about the glass slide thickness. That’s key feature one.”
Key feature two, added Prof. Levenson, was that many fluorescent stains excited, or “showed up” under UV light. This bypasses the complicated process of preparing slides for the pathologist, they explained.
Said Prof. Levenson: “It means we can capture images with a simple color camera, so the whole apparatus is very simple.”
“It requires UV light from an LED, which is very easy to obtain and a piece of tissue that has been stained with easy-to-obtain, non-toxic fluorescence for 10 seconds. You then shine UV light on the tissue and image it with a color camera. You get an image that looks very much like standard histology and is good enough for pathologists to make a diagnosis from.”
Dr. Borowsky explained that while there are a few applications for this technology, which was built on work by Stavros Demos, there is one in particular that appealed to the C3 Prize judges.
“It could enable pathology diagnosis of cancer in under-resourced areas where there are no trained pathologists or even a histology lab to prepare the slides for analysis,” he said.
“If you can create an image of the tissue using MUSE microscopy, it can be beamed, in real time, across town or the world to a pathologist who can make a diagnosis from wherever they are. We will use the C3 Prize to extend that application.”
You can find out more about the C3 Prize and the 2018 winners by clicking on the below links.