Photonics News

LIBS Technology in Advanced Cancer Diagnostics

According to the World Health Organization, cancer is the second leading cause of death globally (1). Recent advancements focusing on early detection have fueled growth in the industry which is projected to reach $23 million by the end of 2025 (2).

As the average US age increases, the incidence of cancer also becomes more common. Medical diagnostics tools must continue to innovate in order to reduce the impacts of this deadly disease. Rapid, large-scale cancer screening devices, real-time analysis, and in vivo diagnostics are some technologies founded by modern research. Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy, or LIBS, is another method for detection that has received a great deal of recent attention.

LIBS has been most commonly used in the past for material analysis in applications such as hazardous material detection, soil quality, and food analysis. Yet, new research reveals that this same spectrochemical method can be used to detect the minute differences between normal and cancerous tissue cells.

This article will explore some of the known advantages and drawbacks of LIBS as applied to cancer diagnosis.

Advantages of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy

LIBS presents several advantages, most notably, the speed of identification. In less than one second, the spectrochemical analysis is complete with the help of a Nd:YAG laser. According to research published in Cancer Science & Therapy, “A LIBS system focuses a high peak power laser pulse onto a targeted material to produce a laser spark or microplasma. Elemental line spectra is created, collected and analyzed by a fiber spectrophotometer since nano- to micro-grams of material are ablated in femto- to nanoseconds (depending on the laser pulse duration), the whole process can be considered as minimally destructive and real time.” (12)

Other significant advantages include:

Relative modest laser requirements allow lightweight, portable or desktop systems

  • Little to no sample preparation required

  • Real-time elemental analysis

  • Virtually no limitation about the kind of sample that can be analyzed

  • Integrates with other optical instruments

  • Small amounts of material result in an effectively non-destructive test

  • Challenges of LIBS in Disease Diagnosis

  • Timing must be optimized between the laser firing and the triggering of the spectrometer. (8)

  • Detection limits for LIBS may vary from one element to the next depending on the specimen type, laser parameters and the experimental apparatus used.

  • Artifacts, penetration depth, and signal-to-noise ratio (7)

Increasing the efficacy of LIBS to meet the needs of cancer detection depends on several technical factors including: selection of the correct laser wavelength, excellent instrument automation that ensures the consistency of the laser ablation, and appropriate sampling protocols, especially for spatially in-homogeneous samples.

From imaging and diagnostics to tissue ablation, scientific experiments and research can lead to breakthroughs that save lives through earlier detection and less invasive treatments. While this is a relatively new application for LIBS, it has shown amazing promise and has certainly warranted more funding and research.

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