Now a new European-wide project co-ordinated by the University of Dundee, working with industrial partners, is to examine whether advanced laser techniques can be used to both detect and treat the disease.
Early experiments have discovered that cancerous cells and healthy cells respond differently when exposed to certain infra-red light. The ABLADE (Advanced Bladder cancer LAser Diagnostics and thErapy) project will work to exploit this difference to develop integrated laser diagnostic and therapeutic techniques.
The project brings together experts from the University’s Medical School and Photonics and Nanoscience Group, with companies in the Netherlands and Russia.
“What we have seen when looking at cells is that there is a notable difference in the behaviour of the cancerous cells and healthy ones when exposed to particular laser wavelengths,” said Dr Ghulam Nabi, Senior Clinical Lecturer in Surgical Uro-oncology. “This means that, in theory, we can first identify the cancer cells and then selectively kill them with certain wavelengths without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.
“The current methods for diagnosing and treating bladder cancer are not particularly effective, they are expensive and they are uncomfortable for patients. The present method for diagnosis misses at least one in every ten cases of bladder cancer so we need much better tools to detect the disease and then treat it.
“If we can successfully develop this kind of laser diagnosis and treatment then we could have a much more effective and minimally invasive technique.”
Professor Edik Rafailov, leader of the Photonics and Nanoscience Group at Dundee, said, “This project builds on new laser techniques and technologies we have already developed at Dundee which are opening up new possibilities for clinical diagnostics.
“We are working closely with industrial partners who also have significant technological expertise.”
The project is supported by a €2.3million grant from the European Union’s Marie Curie IAPP (Industry-Academia Partnership & Pathways) programme. The industrial partners are 2M Netherlands BV, in the Netherlands, and SPE `Lazma’ Ltd, in Russia.
The four-year project will see staff seconded between the University and the industry partners and create four new research posts.