Research News | HCL-Research | Special Applications | Medical | Health | Oct 23, 2020

LED Technology Shines the Light on Ovarian Cancer Treatment

Scientists estimate that nearly 60% of all cancer patients do not respond effectively to chemotherapy treatments. Even worse – many of those same patients experience toxic and sometimes deadly side effects. Now, a Purdue University scientist and entrepreneur is working to use simple LED light to help determine if certain chemotherapy options will work for specific patients.

"We are using a technique very similar to doppler radar used in weather to advance personalized medicine," said David Nolte, the Edward M. Purcell Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy in Purdue's College of Science. "We take the LED light and shine it on biopsies. We then apply chemotherapy to the biopsies and analyze how the light scatters off the tissues."

Nolte, who also is a member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, said the light scattering dynamics give scientists and doctors detailed information about the likelihood of a chemotherapy drug being effective for a patient. Nolte said they have results within 24 hours. This first trial looked at biodynamic imaging on human patients with ovarian cancer.

"We look for signs of apoptosis, or what we call the controlled death of cells," Nolte said. "Apoptosis is the signal that indicates the effectiveness of the chemotherapy for this patient's tissues and tumors. For some cancers, there are so many treatment options available that it's like a doctor is trying to fit square pegs in circular holes until a desired outcome is found. We want to make this process better for patients."

Nolte has worked with several groups within the Purdue entrepreneurial and commercialization ecosystem, including the Purdue Foundry, on business plan development and management searches. AniDyn, a medical technology startup, was spun out of Purdue by professors Nolte and John J. Turek. AniDyn is focused on the development and commercialization of live-tissue imaging platform technologies.

Nolte also works closely with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent and license his technologies.

Abstract of the original paper:

"Intracellular optical doppler phenotypes of chemosensitivity in human epithelial ovarian cancer"
Zhe Li, Ran An, Wendy M. Swetzig, Margaux Kanis, Nkechiyere Nwani, John Turek, Daniela Matei and David Nolte (

Development of an assay to predict response to chemotherapy has remained an elusive goal in cancer research. We report a phenotypic chemosensitivity assay for epithelial ovarian cancer based on Doppler spectroscopy of infrared light scattered from intracellular motions in living three-dimensional tumor biopsy tissue measured in vitro. The study analyzed biospecimens from 20 human patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. Matched primary and metastatic tumor tissues were collected for 3 patients, and an additional 3 patients provided only metastatic tissues. Doppler fluctuation spectra were obtained using full-field optical coherence tomography through off-axis digital holography. Frequencies in the range from 10 mHz to 10 Hz are sensitive to changes in intracellular dynamics caused by platinum-based chemotherapy. Metastatic tumor tissues were found to display a biodynamic phenotype that was similar to primary tissue from patients who had poor clinical outcomes. The biodynamic phenotypic profile correctly classified 90% [88–91% c.i.] of the patients when the metastatic samples were characterized as having a chemoresistant phenotype. This work suggests that Doppler profiling of tissue response to chemotherapy has the potential to predict patient clinical outcomes based on primary, but not metastatic, tumor tissue.


The work is published in Scientific Reports:

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