The objective of the work is to create a powerful new optical cancer diagnostic instrument for the diagnosis and study of cancer. Their goals are to create a new means to study the fundamental physical properties of cancer cells, and a highly sensitive and quantitative diagnostic tool for early cancer detection. This new instrument will be used to obtain the wavelength-dependent (ultraviolet to infrared) optical properties of cancer cells and the number, size, and geometry of organelles within the cells. This work is motivated by substantial evidence showing both significant optical changes in cancer versus normal cells, a propensity for abnormal/enlarged organelles (especially mitochondria) in a wide variety of cancer cells, and the recognized diagnostic value of identifying both changes in optical properties generally and changes in organelle morphology specifically in cancer cells.
The work currently represents a collaboration between the Department of Physics (N. Sun, C. Tanner, and S. Ruggiero) and the Harper Cancer Research Institute (J. Johnson and S. Stack).