PhD Student Tahir Jamal

“We can catch disease faster and earlier”

Thursday 18 Nov 21


Peter Eskil Andersen
Groupleader, Senior Researcher
DTU Health Tech
+45 22 45 45 57


Dominik Marti
DTU Health Tech

With advanced imaging technologies, researchers at DTU Health Tech want to make the healthcare system more efficient by diagnosing more patients in a shorter time.

In the recently finalised EU project – FBI: Multimodal, Functional Bio-photonics Imaging – a network of 15 PhD students across Europe have been working within the field of medical imaging using optical technologies. The goal was to help medical doctors diagnose diseases faster and better by combining and developing different imaging techniques.

Read more about FBI: Sharing experiences with peers is good for PhD Students’ well-being

Tissue imaging speeds up decision-making

Today, when a patient presents symptoms, one of the challenges in medicine is to get an image from the organ in question and potential lesions, usually inside the body. To decide on how to proceed, the doctor has to look at the relevant tissue and diagnose what type of lesion is present and, very importantly, how deep the lesion goes in the tissue. The latter is especially difficult to assess without cutting. However, using optical imaging it is possible to see through tissue and see how deep a lesion goes. They can instantly see if a lesion is superficial and can safely be removed immediately, or whether further investigation is needed.

"We strive to make a positive impact for patients"
Senior Researcher Peter E. Andersen

Researcher Dominik Marti explains, “Currently these techniques are not available, therefore the doctor has to take a biopsy of the specific tissue, send the sample to pathology and often wait several days for the result, before he or she can decide on further action. What optical imaging can do is to speed up the decision-making process. This means that the medical doctors save time, so they can assess more lesions or suspected sites in one go. Basically, we can catch disease faster and earlier.”

Quick and non-invasive diagnosis of bladder cancer

One of the results from the FBI project revolves around diagnosing bladder cancer. The PhDs showed that it is indeed possible to see the depth and the function of tissue to assess: 1) Does the patient have bladder cancer? and 2) What is the progression of the cancer? They also showed that the tissue could be analysed by combining two different imaging techniques, OCT - Optical Coherence Tomography and Raman Spectroscopy, into an endoscope.

“These are compelling results. The clinicians will be able to diagnose bladder cancer instantly without having to wait for a pathological examination that can take several days, and the patients experience a less harmful diagnostic method. This study was done in collaboration with Gentofte Hospital, where we showed that it worked on fresh biopsies”, Dominik Marti enthuses.

These results were a collaborative effort between the partners in the FBI project. To highlight a specific contribution from DTU, Dominik Marti explains that all the imaging techniques are driven by lasers. The research team at DTU in particularly contributed to the development of light sources and their specifications. “We have developed diode based light sources that are much cheaper than conventional lasers. This is crucial if you want to get your technology into the clinic, where the cost is the determining factor”, Researcher Dominik Marti finishes.

Even though the FBI project has ended, the results that were achieved are used in new projects. The research team at DTU Health Tech coordinates another EU project, where they will build the endoscope itself for imaging bladder cancer based on the knowledge from the FBI project. Permissions for testing the technology in humans in Denmark has already been granted.

Senior Researcher Peter E. Andersen, who is the Coordinator of FBI, finishes, “The FBI project helps our group at DTU Health Tech reaching our goal of providing a so-called optical biopsy, i.e., in situ screening or diagnosing disease, image-guided biopsies or surgery. Understanding disease formation and biomarkers and developing new imaging technology are important steps, taken in for example FBI, towards further integration into endoscopy for translation into clinical applications. We strive to make a positive impact for patients.”

About the FBI project

Title: Multimodal, Functional Bio-Photonic Imaging (FBI)

Partners: Technical University of Denmark (Coordinator), Technical University of Munich, Eindhoven University of Technology, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Medical University of Vienna, NKT Photonics, Philips, Ithera Medical, Ekspla, Imasonic, Carl Zeiss Meditec, Imtek, Academic Medical Center, and Smart Photonics

Funding: FBI received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721766.


EU emblem

Caption - top photo: PhD Student Tahir Jamal developed high power diode lasers in the FBI project (Photo by Jesper Scheel)

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