Research at University Health Network
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Lothar Lilge, PhD
Senior Scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre
Keywords: breast cancer, clinical diagnostics, transillumination spectroscopy, photodynamic therapy, optical micro manipulating tools, optical tweezers, optical scissors 

Research Interests
Applications of Light and Lasers in Medical Pre-clinical and Clinical Research

Dr. Lilge's research is focused on enabling/improving: 1) the use of light for clinical diagnostic and/or therapeutic applications, and 2) the use of light as a microscopic tool for biomedical research.

Examples for optical medical diagnostic are the use of transillumination spectroscopy combined with numerical biostatistical methods to quantify the cancer risk. This work is based on the theory of tissue field transformation prior to the development of dysplasia and carcinoma in situ. To establish optical transillumination as a cancer risk assessment tool cross sectional clinical studies are under way or planned using an established epidemiological marker as gold standard.

In the case of breast cancer this marker is the parenchymal density pattern as observed in standard mammography. Transillumination spectra show high sensitivity and specificity to classify women as having high or low parenchymal density pattern. Other potential application for this technology are risk determination for various neurological deficiencies.

An example for ongoing work towards clinical optical therapeutics is to increasing the efficacy of Photodynamic therapy (PDT) by enabling treatment monitoring using fiber optical probes. In this cancer treatment modality, light activated drugs produce extremely short lived cytotoxic substances. To date three parameters, molecular oxygen, light radiance and drug concentration are identified to govern the treatment's efficacy. By controlling the local light intensity online, the production of cytotoxic substances can be adjusted, based on the available oxygen and photosensitizer, to maximize the tumoricidal effect, while sparing normal healthy tissue.

The project includes the development of interstitial sensors based on optical fibre technology and quantification of the biological in vivo response in different tissue. The long term goals of this research is aimed to enable a selective apoptotic or necrotic response in the tumour.

The biochemical pathways activated in various cell lines are investigated in a separate project using confocal laser scanning microscopy and fluorescent antibodies towards identified proteins in the apoptotic pathways. Of special interest is the so called bystander effect which suggests that cells react as an ensemble PDT.

Optical micro manipulating tools for biomedical research comprises the combination of tools such as optical tweezers, optical scissors, chromophore assisted laser inactivation and capillary elecrophoresis, to sort manipulate and detect cells and/or biological macromolecules including proteins, DNA and m-RNA. Integrated optical solutions for cell culture and biopsy analysis as an alternative to flow cytometry, ELISA reader or electrophorsis are sought.

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  Lothar Lilge


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