Lasers4Life (L4L) is a collaborative venture involving laser physicists, mathematicians, medical specialists and molecular biologists based at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Munich. The Consortium serves as a bridge between the laser laboratory and the clinical sphere. Its goal is to develop a method based on the unique properties of ultrashort laser pulses that will enable doctors to diagnose cancers at the earliest possible stage.
Our goal is to design, validate and establish a method for the molecular fingerprinting (‘MF’ for short) of blood samples based on new, state-of-the-art technology, which we have developed. The technique makes use of the physics that underlies the generation of ultrashort pulses of laser light.
The basic technology behind the method was recently described in a research report
published in the leading journal Nature and Nature Photonics:
Field-resolved infrared spectroscopy of biological systems Nature 577, 52 (2020)
Stability of person-specific blood-based infrared molecular fingerprints opens up prospects for health monitoring Nature Communications 12, 1511 (2021)
At present, many types of cancer can be definitively diagnosed only by the painstaking examination of tissue samples (biopsies), which may have to be obtained repeatedly. A test that reveals the molecular fingerprint which cancer cells imprint on the chemical composition of the blood would avoid the need for such invasive measures. Our current focus is to develop such a diagnostic tool for detection of the most prevalent types of malignancy, e.g. cancers of the breast, lung, prostate gland and bladder.
The ability to reliably detect cancers, and define their many different types and subtypes, at an early stage in their development is the key factor that determines the success of therapeutic interventions. The non-invasive nature of the blood-based molecular fingerprinting test would allow it to be carried out regularly, therefore making early diagnosis a practical proposition. The test could also provide valuable information in relation to clinical efficacy during the course of therapy, and be used to screen for possible recurrence of the disease.
As used here, the term ‘molecular fingerprint’ refers to changes in the molecular composition of cell-free blood samples, which can be detected with the aid of trains of ultrashort pulses of laser light. The interaction with the pulsed, broadband infrared light emitted by the laser alters the oscillation patterns of the molecular species in the sample in characteristic ways. This fingerprint-like information can be used to detect changes in the nature and concentration of the molecules present in the sample by comparing it with the signal obtained from a reference sample of known composition. The signal is scanned using an ultrafast laser-based technique, and the result is superimposed on fingerprints that have been found to correlate with known medical conditions.
To evaluate the diagnostic efficacy of infrared spectroscopy, the Lasers4Life Consortium has initiated one of the largest series of clinical studies ever undertaken.
Hospitals located in Bavaria, the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich and other international clinical centers in Europe with a unique range of expertise have agreed to take part in these studies, and efforts are underway to recruit institutional partners in the USA and Asia.
In the course of these studies, clinical samples obtained from healthy individuals, cancer patients and patients with non-malignant disorders of the same organs will be analysed with the new form of infrared spectroscopy, in order to build up an extensive and qualitatively high-grade collection of molecular spectra. Large-scale analyses of such spectroscopic data will permit us to define and validated changes in the molecular fingerprint that can be reliably correlated with different types of cancer.
These studies will explore the applicability of infrared laser spectroscopy to the diagnosis of cancers of the liver, the colon, the pancreas, the stomach, the ovaries, and cancers of the ear, nose and throat.
The study has been registered with the German Registry for Clinical Studies (DRKS) and has been assigned the number DRKS00013217.
Further studies and collaborative projects being undertaken by the Lasers4Life Consortium will focus on establishing the broad validity of the method. To this end, procedural standards will be defined based on the examination of healthy subjects over longer periods (MF in Healthy Controls). In addition, we are already assessing the method’s applicability to body fluids other than blood - for example, seminal fluid (MF in Seminal Plasma) and urine (MF in Expressed Prostate Fluid) for the detection of prostate cancer.
In the long term, we also intend to evaluate the utility of the method for other prevalent diseases (such as diabetes).
5 out of every 1000 women screened will have breast cancer. But 100 will need to undergo further tests.
We can do better than that!
In Western countries, approximately 40 out of every 100 men will develop carcinoma of the prostate gland over the course of their lives. Ten out of 100 will develop symptoms and three will die of the disease.
Imagine: You go for a medical check-up. A blood sample is taken, and the lab technician places the sample in an analytical scanner and switches on the laser. The sample is irradiated with a pulsed laser beam, which stimulates the emission of infrared light. The emission spectrum is then analyzed, and within 15 minutes your doctor knows whether or not you might have cancer.
This scenario has yet to be realized, but it is quite possible that it will soon be implemented in clinical settings.
How Can YOU Help Us?
You can help by visiting the LMU Medical Center in Großhadern, donating a 20-ml sample of blood and filling out a questionnaire, which provides us with the basic information we need.
Please note that donations can only be made on specific dates: Which are listed here.
Please come to the Main Entrance and
contact us at: 089.4400.59250
Marchioninistraße 15, 81377 München
If you have any questions in relation to the study, please get in touch with Carola Spindler or Sabine Witzens via the Contact Form or
have a look at our list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
Your Contact persons for participation in the study (blood donation):
|Jacqueline Hermann||Carola Spindler||Sabine Witzens|
If you decide to take part in the study by donating a blood sample, please call 089.4400.59250
For further information on the project itself, please write to:
mihaela.zigman @ mpq.mpg.de
|Mihaela Žigman, Dr. rer. nat.|
For two decades the team around Prof. Dr. Ferenc Krausz has been pushing the limits of ultrashort pulse laser technology. The team's expertise enabled the development of new laser sources and measurement techniques that enable the recongnition of the molecular fingerprint.
The international Lasers4Life network, consisting of mathematicians, molecular scientists and clinincal oncologists, is working on the clinical approach to transfer the latest findings from basic research in laser physics as quickly as possible into viable diagnostic procedures for cancer detection.
The following medical specialists and leading hospitals/clinical departments in Munich have agreed to take part in the planned clinical studies:
Prof. Dr. Maximilian Reiser,
Department of Urology, LMU Medical Centre
(Prof. Dr. med. Christian Stief),
Department of Gynecology, LMU Medical Centre
(Prof. Dr. med. Nadia Harbeck),
Department of General Medicine V, LMU Medical Center
(Prof. Dr. med. Jürgen Behr),
Department of Radiology, LMU Medical Centre
(Prof. Dr. med. Jens Ricke),
Department of Otolaryngology, LMU Medical Centre
(Prof. Dr. Martin Canis),
Department of General Medicine II, LMU Medical Centre
(Prof. Dr. Julia Mayerle),
The Comprehensive Pneumology Center
(CCP, PD Dr. Katrin Milger-Kneidinger),
Asklepios Lung Clinic in Gauting
(Prof. Dr. med. Jürgen Behr, Dr. Ina Koch),
PD Dr. Andreas Lechner
(Diabetes Center, Department of General Medicine V, LMU Medical Center)
Prof. Dr. Gabriele Multhoff
(Department of Radio-Oncology and Radiation Therapy, Klinikum rechts der Isar).
Other participating clinical institutions in Germany and around the world (Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Israel).
Work on the definition and selection of an optimal control cohort comprising healthy individuals, as well as fingerprinting of samples obtained from patients with common disorders (apart from cancer) will be carried out by Lasers4Life in cooperation with the
(Prof. Dr. Anette Peters).
Systematic comparisons with mass-spectrometry-based molecular profiling techniques (proteomics and metabolomics) will be performed in cooperation with the
Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry
(Prof. Dr. Matthias Mann).
Our Partners in Hungary:
The most notable recent development in relation to the Lasers4Life (L4L) project is the establishment of the Center for Molecular Fingerprinting (CMF) in Budapest. This academic institution will take on the strategically important task of expanding research in the field of Infrared Molecular Fingerprinting in Hungary.
In this context, a project designed to explore the use of Infrared Molecular Fingerprinting for the diagnosis of lung cancer is now underway in cooperation with
Dr. Balázs Döme and Dr. Judit Moldvay of the
Országos Korányi Pulmonológiai Intézet (National Institute of Pulmonology) in Budapest.
Diseases of the coronary arteries are among the most significant causes of death in modern societies. Specific diagnostic methods are urgently required to ensure that the risk of developing these disorders can be reliably assessed. In collaboration with
Dr. Béla Merkely and Dr. Tamás Radovits
at the des Semmelweis Orvostudományi Egyetem ér- és szívsebészeti központ (Center for Cardiovascular Surgery at Semmelweis University), we will investigate whether the laser-based molecular fingerprinting method can be utilized to detect early signs of coronary artery disease.
Collaborations with Institutes in Saudi Arabia:
We are cooperating closely with
Prof. Abdallah Azzeer, Prof. Jean-Marc Nabholtz, Prof. Khaled AlSaleh at King Saud University in Riyadh,
Further collaborations have been established with
Prof. Roberto Incitti at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Tuwan and with the International Cancer Research Group (ICRG) led by
Prof. Jean-Marc Nabholtz and Dr. M.R.K. Kailash Bahadoor.
Together we are also evaluating the application of infrared spectroscopy to the diagnosis of a selection of
specific cancer types (https://www.attoworld.sa/research.html).