New tools for early cancer detection

The following press conference is scheduled for the American Physical Society (APS) meeting in Minneapolis March 20-24, 2000, the largest gathering of physicists this year.


The best way to treat cancer is to detect it early. With state-of-the-art techniques and equipment, physicists have developed innovative, potentially powerful ways to spot cancer at its earliest stages. Rajan Gurjar (617-258-7831, rajn@mit.edu) and Michael Feld of MIT (617-253-7700, msfeld@mit.edu) will discuss an optical technique for detecting the first signs of cancer in epithelial tissue--the tissue that covers the surfaces of the body and where most cancers begin. With the ability to measure the density and size distribution of cells, the researchers have found the technique to be equally effective in detecting cancer in four areas: the mouth, esophagus, colon and bladder. Employing state-of-the-art designs in micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), Paul Gourley (505-844-5806, plgourl@sandia.gov) and colleagues at Sandia have developed a tiny device known as a biocavity laser which can quickly and accurately screen cells for cancer. Their tests on normal and cancerous cells show that only a few hundred cells -- equal to about a billionth of a liter -- are needed to detect abnormal growths. Using the Advanced Light Source to produce an intense beam focused on a tiny spot (typically 10 microns, the size of a human cell), Michael Martin of Lawrence Berkeley Lab (510-495-2231, MCMartin@lbl.gov) and his colleagues can observe subtle molecular changes (such as DNA breaks) in living cells responding to low doses of radiation and chemicals. (Session Y13)

APS Virtual Pressroom, with over 20 lay-language papers:

Contact: Ben Stein
American Institute of Physics

Page: 1 2

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