A novel hybrid optical and optoacoustic endoscope under development by researchers at the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München could enable early diagnosis and staging of esophageal cancer, which would improve treatment outcomes and lead to “immense cost-savings,” according to a press release.
The device is the result of the ESOTRAC research project, a 4-year interdisciplinary research program involving physicians and engineers from five countries, which was recently awarded 4 million Euros from Horizon 2020, a research and innovation program in the European Union.
Aiming to improve the detection of early stage esophageal cancer, the ESOTRAC program is developing an endoscopic instrument that combines multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) and optical coherence tomography (OCT) to respectively detect pathophysiological tissue signatures and morphological disease signatures. The device will be superior to conventional video endoscopes in its ability to visualize sub-surface esophageal tissue features and thus detect and stage early esophageal cancer, “neither of which can be done reliably today,” according to the press release.
The device may also reduce the number of unnecessary biopsies by more accurately guiding endoscopists to suspicious areas compared with white-light endoscopy, and, according to the press release, its ability to provide rapid three-dimensional imaging and quantify disease biomarkers “promises to change the landscape of gastroenterological endoscopy— beyond diagnosis of [esophageal cancer].”
“The combination of MSOT and OCT can shape the way physicians look at the esophagus in the near future,” Vasilis Ntziachristos MSc, PhD, coordinator of the ESOTRAC program, director of the Institute of Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München, and professor and chair of Biological Imaging at the Technical University of Munich, said in the press release.
The investigators are designing this endoscope for wide implementation in gastroenterology clinics; the device could help improve the quality of rural and urban endoscopy care with its ability to provide quantitative metrics, and its small, patient-friendly design aims to minimize the risk for gag reflex and the need for sedation, according to the press release.
“From a clinical perspective we desperately need new technologies that improve imaging and combine information on molecular markers for early detection of disease and this research is trying to do exactly that,” Rebecca Fitzgerald, MD, of the MRC Cancer Unit at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in the U.K., an ESOTRAC partner, said in the press release. – by Adam Leitenberger
Disclosures: Healio Gastroenterology was unable to determine the researchers’ relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.