Endoscope to target colon tumours
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Endoscope to target colon tumours

A group of scientists are working on the development of an innovative and easy to use endoscopic device, which could play a crucial role in identifying and diagnosing pre-cancerous polyps and early colon cancers.

Colorectal cancer ranks as one of the world’s most predominant cancers, affecting approximately one in ten people during their life and causing almost 700,000 deaths globally each year. Almost 95% of these cases are adenocarcinomas, which typically start as a growth of tissue called a polyp.

The current method to achieve early detection of the disease is colonoscopy. While up to 40% of the patients under routine analysis colonoscopy present one or more polyps, almost 30% are not detected, especially in the case of flat polyps. Of those detected, 29-42% are generally hyperplastic, and will not develop into cancer. The remainder are neoplastic polyps, which are of primary importance because they harbour malignant potential and represent a stage in the development of colorectal cancer. It is therefore essential to identify these polyps at an early stage.

Speaking about the PICCOLO Project Dr Artzai Picon said: “We hope that PICCOLO will provide major benefits over traditional colonoscopy.

“Firstly, by developing an advanced endoscope, using both Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)  & Multi-Photon Tomography (MPT), we will provide high-resolution structural and functional imaging, giving details of the changes occurring at the cellular level comparable to those obtained using traditional histological techniques.

“Furthermore, when multiple polyps are detected in a patient, the current gold standard procedure is to remove all of them, followed by microscopic tissue analysis. Removal of hyperplastic polyps, which carry no malignant potential, and the subsequent costly histopathological analysis might be avoided through the use of the PICCOLO endoscope probe, which could allow image-based diagnosis without the need for tissue biopsies”.

The PICCOLO team hope to have refined their first prototype by the end of 2018 and targets clinical trials to begin around 2020.