Advances in Cancer Detection and Diagnosis:
The Revolution in Bioimaging and Micro-molecular analysis


Dr. Thomas Baer

Stanford Photonics Research Center
Department of Applied Physics
Stanford University



Reducing the incidence of cancer deaths requires a two pronged approach:  developing technology which allows the detection of the disease prior to the manifestation of overt symptoms and, after detection, technology to diagnose precisely the particular type of cancer, thus allowing prescription of the most effective drug therapies.  Recent advances in instrumentation are providing the opportunity to dramatically impact cancer diagnosis and treatment. 

These latest instruments employ advanced photonic techniques. The newest generation of x-ray CT imaging devices provides sub-millimeter resolution with unprecedented potential for early detection of cancer.  These CT instruments generate enormous 3-D data sets which require automated pattern recognition algorithms for efficient image analysis. Once detected, the tumor can be analyzed using tumor identification technology which involves the precise measurement of the expression levels of over 40,000 genes simultaneously in samples as small as a single cell. Accurate measurement of these gene expression levels requires the analysis of complex biopsy samples containing multiple cell types.  Laser microdissection provides a precise means of selecting specific classes of cells for subsequent analysis.  Dr. Baer will review advances in these areas of diagnostic instrumentation and discuss how these instruments generate massive data sets requiring new approaches to extracting useful information from data exhibiting high levels of biological diversity and systematic noise.