Grants - Translational Grants - Massachusetts - 2015

Ralph Weissleder, M.D., Ph.D.

Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial

Cancer Research Fund

The global burden of cancer, severe pathology bottlenecks in underserved regions, and evolving medical knowledge increase the need for inexpensive and rapid diagnostic approaches for point-of-care use. We developed a low-cost imaging module (D3), mountable onto standard smartphones, that exploits holography to detect and profile tumors using scant clinical samples. Cells are decorated with plastic beads coated with antibodies against various cancer markers. Recorded holograms (inherently noisy and undecipherable images) are transmitted wirelessly to a remote server via a secure, encrypted cloud service. Results are rapidly reconstructed and returned to the end user’s smartphone screen along with a diagnostic readout. Pilot testing of human biopsies demonstrated protein profiling capabilities comparable to gold standard methods and excellent diagnostic accuracies compared to expert pathology interpretation.  To render the platform poised for global field testing, we propose to optimize D3 to achieve simultaneous, multiple marker testing along a spectrum of field conditions using scant samples. We will then inaugurate this next generation platform and pilot its global oncology reach by tackling a key unmet need – early breast cancer detection in Botswana. Testing for key markers in breast cancer specimens is universal practice in developed regions yet rarely performed elsewhere due to highly inadequate resources. Instead, empiric treatment with anti-estrogens occurs leading to over/under treatment and significant drug-drug interactions (e.g. reduced HIV medication levels). D3 could position itself as a key early detection tool in global regions, enabling judicious and personalized treatment and increased biological insight.

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