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High-end laser technology for early detection of lung cancer

News 2023-411 EN

Nobel Prize-winning laser technology at the LMU Lung Tumor Center in Großhadern

In collaboration with this year's Nobel Prize winner for physics, Ferenc Krausz, the Ludwig Maximilian University Hospital was the first to test the clinical application of the groundbreaking laser technology. The joint project “Laser4Life” started in 2017. The background: Diseases leave traces in the blood and change the molecular composition. Until then, these tiny traces could not be meaningfully measured or analyzed. However, they could be scanned using the attosecond measurement technology researched by Krausz, among others.

Since laser technology is still being tested, a study was conducted on blood samples using conventional infrared spectroscopy, which is based on a similar concept. In cooperation with the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic V for Pneumology (Director: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Behr) and the Munich Lung Tumor Center (Head: Prof. Dr. med. Amanda Tufman and Prof. Dr. med. Niels Reinmuth) - all three DZL -Researchers - patients with lung cancer were examined in comparison to patients with breast, prostate or bladder cancer as well as control subjects who did not have the disease. In an interim evaluation with 1,927 participants for the four main entities, high-precision, individual spectra were generated from blood serum samples and blood plasma, which contained diagnostic information about both the type of cancer and the tumor stage.

Using machine learning algorithms, it was possible to identify specific patterns in lung cancer patients with a diagnostic accuracy of 89%. Compared to the other tumor types examined, the signals from lung cancer patients were the most pronounced. The “Attoworld”, as co-discoverer Krausz calls his research area, could revolutionize the early detection of lung cancer. A corresponding study on 19,000 patients has been applied for and is currently being assessed by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Clinical study started in spring 2023

The recruitment of patients for the associated clinical study “Molecular Fingerprinting for Cancer Detection” began this year. One goal is to use electric field molecular spectroscopy to develop a medical device that complements current primary cancer diagnostics. Over the next few years, thousands of people with various types of cancer as well as control subjects will be included in the study, initially at the LMU Munich Clinic and later at other clinics in Germany. The study team will process and measure the blood samples using infrared spectroscopy in the laser laboratories of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU Munich) in Garching.

Further information about LMU and LMU Klinikum projects that research the use of laser technologies in medicine can be found at Lasers4Life.

The 2023 Nobel Prizes in Physics went to the holder of the Chair of Experimental Physics/Laser Physics at the LMU and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, Prof. Ferenc Krausz; together with Anne L’Huillier from Lund University, Sweden, and Pierre Agostini from Ohio State University, USA. The three researchers were honored for experimental methods that make it possible to generate attosecond light pulses in order to study the behavior of electrons in atoms and molecules.


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Kepesidis, K.V. et al.: Breast-cancer detection using blood-based infrared molecular fingerprints. In: BMC Cancer 2021, doi:10.1186/s12885-021-09017-7

Huber, M. et al.: Infrared molecular fingerprinting of blood-based liquid biopsies for the detection of cancer. In: eLife 2021, doi:10.7554/eLife.68758

Voronina, L. et al.: Molecular Origin of Blood-Based Infrared Spectroscopic Fingerprints. In: Angew Chem Int Ed Engl 2021, doi: 10.1002/anie.202103272

Huber, M. et al.: The stability of person-specific blood-based molecular fingerprints opens up prospects for health monitoring. In: Nature Communications 2021, doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21668-5

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