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Purdue University research aims to customize cancer treatments

Doppler light scattering could improve chemotherapy effectiveness

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Mike Childress, DVM, associate professor of veterinary medicine, with Carolyn McGuire and her dog, Kody. Kody experienced prolonged survival following chemotherapy, with the positive outcome predicted by a biodynamic imaging test. Photo © Kevin Doerr, courtesy Purdue University.

Researchers at Purdue University exploring Doppler light scattering, a new method for testing how patients will respond to various drugs, say it could help customize chemotherapy treatments for patients diagnosed with cancer, paving the way for more effective, personalized treatments.

Similar to meteorological Doppler weather radar, which sends electromagnetic waves into clouds to determine the overall motion of raindrops, Doppler light scattering creates a 3-D map of activity occurring within living tissue samples, allowing researchers to see how cancerous cells respond to different chemotherapy drugs and treatment methods.

“We’re looking at the motion inside living tissue rather than rain droplets, and we’re using infrared light instead of radar,” said David Nolte, Ph.D, professor of physics and astronomy at Purdue. “It’s like watching the weather inside living tissue as the tissue is affected by cancer drugs.”

Working in collaboration with John Turek, Ph.D, professor of basic medical sciences at Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and Mike Childress, DVM, associate professor of veterinary medicine, Nolte’s team performed the study on 19 dogs previously diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, which is molecularly and clinically similar to lymphoma in humans. To test the Doppler light scattering method, biopsied tissue samples were placed in a multi-wall plate, where various anti-cancer drugs were then applied. Light-emitting diodes were shined into the middle of the tissue and researchers observed the scattered light coming off.

The findings, published in Biomedical Optics Express, report an 84 percent success rate predicting patient response to therapy in the group’s first complete preclinical trial.

“This could revolutionize the way chemotherapy is selected for patients,” said Nolte. “Hundreds of thousands of patients per year are given standard treatments, while only 40 percent of them actually respond. Currently, there’s no good way to personalize treatment because there’s no evidence-based medicine that doctors can turn to. If our method works in human cancers, it means we can help doctors choose better therapies.”

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