laboratoryTiny changes in cervical and uterine cells may be able to predict risk of ovarian cancer, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Cancer. The changes take place on a nanoscale, but with the use of PWS (partial wave spectroscopic) microscopy, the cellular changes can be identified. The procedure is minimally invasive and gives doctors a better guide on which to base future health care, testing and response time with early detection.

When researchers looked at the cells under a normal microscope they appeared to be completely healthy. The same “healthy” cells were seen in a new light using PWS microscopy. PWS technology is already in use in other fields of cancer research and detection, including lung, pancreatic and colon cancers.

The cells viewed using PWS microscopy were retrieved from neighboring organs. In the case of this study, cells were harvested from the cervix and uterus. Changes in neighboring organ cells were also used in previous studies with cells pulled from the cheek for lung cancers, rectum for colon cancers and duodenum for pancreatic cancers. Changes in neighboring cells occur on a nanoscale, thus the need for PWS microscopy.

Currently, doctors have no clinically proven tests to detect ovarian cancer in early stages. With nanoscale technology, which could be on the market in as little as five years, doctors can harvest cells from neighboring organs that reveal small changes common in the earliest stages of cancer. Early detection is crucial for treatment and survival.

According to Hermant Roy, coauthor of the study, “This intriguing finding may represent a breakthrough that would allow personalization of screening strategies for ovarian cancer via a minimally intrusive test that could be coupled to the Pap smear.”

The technology used in the early detection is much more advanced than any other technology currently available to doctors. PWS microscopy enables doctors to view cells or cellular changes as little as three atoms wide or one nanometer. The typical virus is 100 nanometers.

For the sake of the study researchers collected cells from uterus and endocervix in 49 patients; 21 patients had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Changes in cells on a nanoscale were identical in all cancer patients. The same can be said for PWS microscopy results in other cancer research. The PWS microscopy tests appear to have revealed a universal change in cellular structure that occurs with the development of cancer.

Source: Dhwanil Damania, Hemant K. Roy, Dhananja Kunte, Jean A. Hurteau, Hariharan Subramanian, Lusik Cherkezyan, Nela Krosnjar, Maitri Shah and Vadim Backman. Insights into the field carcinogenesis of ovarian cancer based on the nanocytology of endocervical and endometrial epithelial cells. Int. J. Cancer. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28122.

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