STARSTEM members from the TOMI, NUI Galway recently published a new article called Nanoscale structure detection and monitoring of tumour growth with optical coherence tomography in the journal of Nanoscale Advances.

We asked the team to discuss their work.

What were you aiming to find out in this publication?

Proposed research demonstrated detection of depth resolved submicron structure with few nanometre accuracies and quantified its alteration as tumour growth in mammary fat pad (MFP).

Why does this research need to be done?

Early detection of cancer can save millions of lives. It is known that tissue goes through submicron structural changes as cancer development initiates. However, developed technique relies on labelling tissue sample and information available from superficial region only.

Describe the methods chosen.

Here we have applied nano sensitive optical coherence tomography (nsOCT) which can detect depth-resolved submicron structure and its alteration. Proposed method validated numerically and tested on mammary fat pad (MFP) in mice.

What is the intended impact and how could this benefit the clinic?

A clinical system can be developed based on the proposed method to detect cancer in the early stage. In the initial study, we found a consistent change of submicron structure over tissue depth as tumour developed. Early detection of cancer can provide an opportunity for better treatment and can improve quality of life.

What are the next steps?

We are presently developing nsOCT which expected to detect smaller submicron structure and can provide more insight about nano-sensitive changes as precancer progress.


H&E stained histological images (200 μm × 200 μm) of (a) normal and (b) tumour tissue. (c) and (d) 3D volume (250 μm × 250 μm × 180 μm) OCT images of healthy and tumour tissue. (e) and (f) Dominant submicron axial structural mapped 3D volume OCT images of healthy and tumour tissue, respectively. Colour bar represents size of dominant submicron axial structures.

You can find out more about the publication and download the full text over on our publications page.