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Cancer Screening Device

Module by: Allison Lipper. E-mail the author

Summary: Bioengineers at Rice have developed low-cost imaging systems to improve the early detection of cancer.

Global Health Challenge

Cancer kills 30% of our population and is a major public health problem for both rich and poor countries. It is estimated that by 2020, at least 70% of cancer deaths will occur in developing countries. For example, cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in developing countries.

Improving early detection is the key to reducing death and suffering due to cancer. When detected early, most cancers are curable. Unfortunately, many cancers are not identified until later stages, when treatment is less successful, more invasive and more expensive. The situation is even more desperate in developing countries, where existing technologies to improve early detection are often not available.

Because precancerous lesions and early cancers do not produce symptoms, we need technologies that help healthcare workers screen patients at risk. For some cancers, effective screening tests exist but they are not available in many developing countries. For other cancers, such as oral cancer, there are no good screening tests available anywhere in the world. Early detection of precancerous changes may be the best means to prevent cancer, improving survival and quality of life for patients from all socioeconomic communities.

Appropriate Solution

Figure 1: Low-cost, battery powered cancer screening device.
A case containing an instrument.
Figure 2: Automated image analysis detects oral precancer with sensitivity and specificity > 90%.
An image of a person's mouth with an area highlighted indicating the presence of precancer.

Working in partnership with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, bioengineers at Rice have developed low-cost imaging systems to improve the early detection of cancer. Driven by advances in consumer electronics, high quality optical images can be obtained with low-cost, batterypowered devices; image analysis can be automated so that rapid screening can be performed by community health workers without complex infrastructure. Bioengineering graduate students in the lab of Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum have designed a low-cost imaging system to help community health workers automatically identify precancers in the oral cavity and uterine cervix. This inexpensive system can help prevent patients throughout the world from developing invasive cancer.

Current Status

Figure 3: High resolution images delineate changes in cell size and shape indicative of precancer, potentially eliminating the need for painful biopsy.
Two high resolution images one showing normal tissue and the other showing precancerous tissue.

Clinical trials of this technology are underway in Houston as well as in India and Africa. Together, our students, faculty and partners are working to implement integrated approaches to cancer prevention. These methods, coupled with management and distribution networks, and patient education programs could help save the lives of more than 6 million people per year who die of cancer.Clinical trials of this technology are underway in Houston as well as in India and Africa. Together, our students, faculty and partners are working to implement integrated approaches to cancer prevention. These methods, coupled with management and distribution networks, and patient education programs could help save the lives of more than 6 million people per year who die of cancer.

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Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

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Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

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