RESEARCHERS at a Scottish university are to lead a European wide research project to discover whether advanced laser techniques can be used to both detect and treat bladder cancer.
The disease is one of the most common forms of cancer – particularly among the over-60s – and one of the hardest to diagnose and treat.
But a new European research project, co-ordinated by experts at Dundee University’s Medical School and Photonics and Nanoscience Groups, is now set to work with leading industrial companies in Russia and the Netherlands to examine the use of lasers in fighting the fatal disease.
Early experiments have already discovered that cancerous cells and healthy cells respond differently when exposed to certain infra-red light. The £2 million research study - ABLADE (Advanced Bladder cancer LAser Diagnostics and thErapy) - will work to exploit these differences in a bid to develop integrated laser diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.
Dr Ghulam Nabi, a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Surgical Uro-oncology at Dundee, explained: “What we have seen when looking at cells is that there is a notable difference in the behaviour of the cancerous cells and healthy ones when exposed to particular laser wavelengths.
“This means that, in theory, we can first identify the cancer cells and then selectively kill them with certain wavelengths without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.”
He continued: “The current methods for diagnosing and treating bladder cancer are not particularly effective, they are expensive and they are uncomfortable for patients. The present method for diagnosis misses at least one in every ten cases of bladder cancer so we need much better tools to detect the disease and then treat it.
“If we can successfully develop this kind of laser diagnosis and treatment then we could have a much more effective and minimally invasive technique.”
Professor Edik Rafailov, leader of the Photonics and Nanoscience Group at Dundee, said: “This project builds on new laser techniques and technologies we have already developed at Dundee which are opening up new possibilities for clinical diagnostics.
“We are working closely with industrial partners who also have significant technological expertise.”
A Dundee University spokeswoman explained: “The project is supported by a €2.3million grant from the European Union’s Marie Curie IAPP (Industry-Academia Partnership & Pathways) programme. The industrial partners are 2M Netherlands BV, in the Netherlands, and SPE Lazma Ltd, in Russia. The four-year project will see staff seconded between the university and the industry partners and create four new research posts.”