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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/L025620/1
Title: Diagnosis of tumours during tissue conserving surgery by multimodal spectral imaging
Principal Investigator: Notingher, Professor I
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Boston University Nottingham Uni Hospitals NHS Trust Oxford Instruments Plc
RiverD International University of Glasgow
Department: Sch of Physics & Astronomy
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 30 November 2014 Ends: 30 November 2020 Value (£): 1,394,764
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
19 Jun 2014 Eng Fellowship Interviews June 2014 Announced
29 Apr 2014 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 29 April 2014 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
One in three people in the UK population will develop cancer during their life time. The incidence of cancer continues to increase world-wide and healthcare providers are facing increasing challenges in the management of this expanding group of patients. However, new imaging technologies allow detection of tumours at earlier stages and now more cancer patients than ever can be successfully treated by surgery. Tissue conserving surgery is an advanced surgical procedure that tries to only remove cancerous tissue and leave healthy tissue in place. In skin conserving surgery (also known as Mohs micrographic surgery), one layer after another of tissue is cut away and examined under the microscope to make sure that all the cancer is out. This process is stopped when only healthy tissue is left. Successful removal of all cancer cells is the key to achieving lower rates of the cancer returning. There is always a balance to be struck between making sure that all the cancer is removed and preserving as much healthy tissue as possible in order to reduce scarring and disfigurement. The real challenge however is to know where the cancer starts and ends when looking at it during an operation so that the surgeon knows when to stop cutting.

Although Mohs surgery provides the highest cure rates for basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of cancer in humans with ~60,000 new patients each year in the UK, it takes around 1-2 hours per layer to prepare and diagnose under the microscope. The high costs and the need for highly specialized surgeons, has limited the availability of Mohs surgery in the UK and led to "post-code" treatment variability. Compared to Mohs surgery, breast conserving surgery (more than 10,000 procedures per year) is considerably more complex and for practical reasons, the traditional methods of diagnosis by preparing thin tissue specimens cannot be performed during surgery. As a consequence, in England more than 2,000 patients per year require a second operation, usually complete removal of the breast.

Recently, my research group has developed a new method to diagnose cancer cells in tissue layers removed during surgery. The main advantage of this technique is that the time consuming steps of tissue fixation, staining, and sectioning are eliminated. This new diagnosis method uses a combination of two techniques called auto-fluorescence imaging and Raman scattering, that can measure the molecular composition of tissue and provide objective diagnosis of cancer.

However, this breakthrough is just the beginning and further work is required to take these successes forward and improve patient care. In the short and medium term, I will focus on reducing the diagnosis time for skin cancers to only a few minutes by developing a method to measure Raman spectra from eighteen regions of the tissue simultaneously. In collaboration with cancer surgeons, we will expand this new technology to diagnosis of other cancers, such as breast and lung. This will be achieved by optimizing the auto-fluorescence imaging and Raman scattering to take into consideration the chemical make up of these tissues. In the longer term, I plan to develop novel hand-held medical devices based on multimodal spectral imaging that could be used by the surgeons to diagnose the tissues directly on the body and remove tissue only if cancerous cells are detected. These methods for tumour diagnosis can revolutionise the surgical treatment of cancers, by providing a fast and objective way for surgeons to make sure that all cancer cells have been removed whilst at the same time preserving as much healthy tissue as possible. To achieve these ambitious objectives I will work in close partnership with other scientists, engineers, doctors, surgeons and industry. Such collaborations will ensure that cutting-edge science and engineering is exploited to develop leading healthcare technologies for the benefit of patients.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk