Speaker: Lana Woolford, Edinburgh University
The ability to provide quantitative, objective and automated pathological analysis would provide enormous benefits for national cancer screening programmes, in terms of both resource reduction and improved patient wellbeing. The move towards biomarker-based molecular pathology has shown great promise, but is currently limited by requirements for specialist laboratory equipment and large biological target panels in order to consider heterogeneity of disease and genetic populations.
My work considers vibrational spectroscopy as a novel approach to clinical screening, using the Raman scattering of light from intrinsic biological 'markers' or synthetic molecular labels to detect the onset and development of cervical cancers and pre-cancers. The approach is two-fold, exploring both global and targeted approaches to clinical diagnostics. The global approach determines the overall molecular content of unlabelled cell models using well-established Raman spectroscopic methods combined with spectral processing to classify cell populations. The targeted approach involves production of nanoscale metal substrates ('nanoparticles') that amplify incoming and outgoing light signals. These are labelled with strongly Raman-active molecules and an antibody to p16, which is a protein consistently shown to be overabundant in transformed or cancerous cervical tissue. It is hoped that an exploration of these methods with a specific clinical challenge in mind will allow for the production of a feasible and accurate diagnostic tool which reduces burdens and improve outcomes for patients and health services alike.