I heard of a laser induced fluorescence instrument that is used in aiding cancer…

I heard of a laser induced fluorescence instrument that is used in aiding cancer diagnosis. Could you tell me how this instrument works?

You are probably referring to a device developed at the BC Cancer Research Center in Vancouver, British Columbia and now available commercially from Xillix Technologies. A scientist from that research center gave me the following description of their technique.

The instrument is based on the discovery that most tissues when illuminated by blue or UV light emit a natural fluorescence spectral signature known as autofluorescence. This fluorescence signature is the sum of the emission of the various biochemical fluorphores present in the tissue. If the tissue chemical or physical structure changes, then the spectral signature changes. By exploiting differences in the spectral signature between cancerous and healthy tissue one can create an imaging device that can “see” the difference in the color of the autofluorescence of the tissue and detect changes that may indicate the presence of cancer. The sensors used to see the low levels of fluorescence light employ similar technology to military night vision devices. Once areas of change are located and confirmed by analysis of a biopsy sample treatment can begin. This technique is primarily useful for early stage cancers that are not visually apparent to a physician.

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