Scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) have developed a device using LEDs to advance a technique for treating cancer, according to findings presented at the Optical Society’s Annual Meeting.

The technique, called photodynamic therapy (PDT), works when photosensitize chemicals are injected into a tumor and then exposed to light. To advance PDT’s capabilities, Rolf Saager, who works in the lab of Anthony Durkin at the Beckman Laser Institute at UC Irvine with Kristen Kelly, MD, collaborated to design a device with an array of five different colors of LEDs that illuminates skin with distinct intensity patterns. The scientists explained that these patterns can change depending on the structure of the tissue, and the pigments in the skin and the resulting images can reveal the biochemistry of the tissue.

To test the device, the scientists imaged a small population of skin cancers prior to treatment to characterize the variability among subjects and within the lesions themselves. The results revealed spatially resolved maps of the optical properties of the lesions, tissue oxygenation, and quantitative distribution of the photosensitizing drugs.

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“Through this imaging modality, it is now possible to assess how the therapeutic light will travel throughout the affected tissue, quantify the drug present within the lesion, and monitor its efficacy during treatment,” noted Saager.

According to the press release announcing the findings, Saager and colleagues hope that this imaging technique will provide a better map for targeting and optimizing photodynamic therapy for basal cell carcinoma.