Swabbin’ Yer Cheeks Now Quickly Reveals The Black Lung. Avast!

Early detection in lung cancer is key to survivability, and a team of researchers has developed a way to easily identify those affected.


It’s called partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy and it involves shining a diffuse light on to cells swabbed from the cheeks of patients to reveal changes in their nuclei and cellular skeletons.


Until now, detection techniques have either been slow and cumbersome or run the risk of confusing a cancer diagnosis with problems encountered by those who are lifetime smokers or suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Now, researchers from the NorthShore University Health System, Northwestern University and New York University have discovered that PWS technology is not only accurate, but that subtle changes at a nanometer lever are detectable in cells of a body infected with lung cancer even far afield from the tumor or origin point.


This is known as the “field effect” – the ability for a cancerous growth to alter the structure of even healthy cells, ones that are located nowhere near the cancer mass itself. Previous versions of detection technology were unsuccessful in finding changes to healthy cells as their resolution was simply not great enough to record the micro-level changes that the cellular structures had undergone.

Cancer detection: cheek-style.Cancer detection: cheek-style.


New PWS technology combines the benefit of being minimally invasive with a quick and accurate response, and a $2 million Frontiers in Research Award has now been conferred on the project. The hope is that this same technology can be used to detect a broad range of cancers even at their earliest stages, long before patient will begin showing any major symptoms.


Though a cure for cancer has not yet been found, early, simple detection is key in improving patient prognosis.


It’s bold, cheeky science like this that will help us forge ahead in the fight against cancer.


Source: National Science Foundation

Photo Credtit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation