The risk of developing cancer in the lifetime of a person is increasing on a global scale. In Germany, 51% of men and 43% of women will develop cancer during their lifetime, with nearly 1400 individuals being diagnosed every day. Despite this, few clinical diagnostic means are available for effective and non-invasive cancer detection, especially at the early stages of the disease.
Lasers4Life (L4L) facilitates a platform where the latest developments in ultrashort-pulse laser science are applied for medical purposes, specifically focusing on cancer detection. The consortium is driven by interdisciplinary research collaborations between life scientists, medical doctors, data scientists and laser physicists at the
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich (LMU)
and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ).
Based on our newly developed cutting-edge laser physics technology, Lasers4Life research is providing an alliance for a world new test to detect and diagnose common cancers. Above all, we aim to establish novel avenues for effective cancer diagnostics through translational research focusing on blood-based infrared molecular analysis.
With early diagnosis, cancer is more likely to respond to treatments, resulting in higher survival rates. Yet, there is an unmet need for non-invasive ways to diagnose and capture cancer. Molecular profiling of bioliquids, such as our blood, is one promising diagnostic avenue for detecting cancerous growth within our bodies in its early stages. Current methods, including known cancer biomarkers, are unfortunately limited.
We have developed a novel laser-based technology: electric-field resolved molecular fingerprinting. Contrary to usual molecular profiling methods, it does not only examine a single molecule or even a specific group of molecules. Instead, within only a single, sensitive measurement of your blood in a test tube, we can now measure all types of molecules in parallel. We aim to further advance this new technology so that it can one day be used in clinical practice to diagnose the most common cancers - such as breast, lung, prostate and bladder cancer.
The primary objectives of Lasers4Life research are to:
1.Establish a comprehensive database of human samples and clinical information, as a valuable scientific resource to develop new blood-based diagnostics.
2. Discover the patterns that correspond to common cancers in the infrared spectrum.
3. Set new frontiers for non-invasive disease detection routines that will aid and extend current medical decision making.
To capture cancer early, as well as to tell the difference between specific kinds of cancer, would both help the success of cancer therapies and raise the possibility of cure. Single non-invasive measurement of one’s blood performed by lab analysis with infrared molecular fingerprinting could, in principle, enable early cancer detection during simple medical check-ups. Furthermore, given the simplicity, throughput and time-effectiveness of the approach, this principle could possibly be applied to screening large populations.
In the framework of Laser4Life research, we are developing and evaluating such an in vitro diagnostic blood test for a diversity of clinical applications. Infrared molecular fingerprinting may thus offer more accessible, expedited cancer diagnostics, implementable even in the context of routine blood checks, and help reduce uncertainty and overdiagnosis.
We have developed a novel technology - electric-field resolved molecular fingerprinting (EMF). EMF probes the full repertoire of all types of molecules in a bioliquid, within a single, sensitive measurement in a test tube - in vitro (Pupeza et al., Nature 2020).
The Lasers4Life-consortium has launched one of the world's largest series of clinical studies for infrared spectroscopy.
Clinics in Bavaria, the Helmholtz Centre and other international clinical centres in Europe with unique expertise have joined forces with the Lasers4Life-cooperation. Expansion to the USA and Asia is in preparation.
Together, clinical samples from healthy individuals, from cancer patients as well as from patients with benign diseases of the same organ are examined with the newly developed infrared spectroscopy to create a large, high-quality database of molecular patterns. This large-scale study will define universally valid differences in molecular fingerprints that are indicative of different cancers.
We are also exploring the possibility of whether and how infrared laser spectroscopy can be used to diagnose liver, colon, pancreatic, ear, nose and throat, stomach and ovarian cancers. In the form of a new cooperation, we are also testing the extent to which our method can detect bile duct cancer.
Further studies and cooperation projects in the Lasers4Life consortium are concerned with establishing the method as generally applicable. In addition, we are also investigating the applicability of the method with media other than blood, such as seminal fluid and urine to evaluate whether this could be informative for prostate cancer diagnostics.
Our clinical trials are registered with the German Registry for Clinical Trials (DRKS) under the identification numbers DRKS00013217, DRKS00019844, DRKS00025002 and DRKS00025319 (https://www.drks.de)
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 in for a check-up. Your doctor takes a small amount of blood from you. In the next room, the lab assistant puts the sample in a device and performs a laser measurement. The light flows through and probes the blood sample. Fifteen minutes later, your doctor knows whether you might already be suffering from cancer, another (common) disease, or whether both can be ruled out.
This is still a vision of the future. But there is a chance for this scenario to find its way into clinics.
How can you help us?
Unfortunately, there is currently no possibility to support us with a blood donation. In spring we will inform you here about our new study at the LMU Klinikum in Großhadern and opportunities to participate in the study.
Questions about participating?
Contact Carola Spindler & Sabine Witzens via our contact form or read
our questions & answers (FAQ).
Your contact persons for participation in the study (blood donation):
|Jacqueline Hermann||Carola Spindler||Sabine Witzens|
For further information on our research please contact:
mihaela.zigman @ mpq.mpg.de
|Mihaela Žigman, Dr. rer. nat.|
Over two decades, the team around Prof. Dr. Ferenc Krausz has been pushing the boundaries of ultrashort pulsed laser technology. The Broadband Infrared Diagnostics team, headed by Dr. Mihaela Zigman, is now applying the latest laser technologies developed at the department, to measure blood-based infrared molecular fingerprints and thus devise new avenues to capture cancer based on the analysis of human blood.
We have created a unique international and interdisciplinary network, where study nurses, medical doctors, oncologists, molecular biologists, data analysts work together with laser physicists. Our mission is the direct transfer of the latest technological developments in laser physics into viable diagnostic procedures for the early detection of cancer and other diseases.
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,
The Urological Clinic and Polyclinic
(Prof. Dr. med. Christian Stief),
the Breast Centre, Clinic and Polyclinic for Gynaecology
(Prof. Dr. med. Nadia Harbeck),
the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic
(Prof. Dr. med. Jürgen Behr),
the Clinic and Polyclinic for Radiology
(Prof. Dr. med. Jens Ricke),
the Department of Otorhinolaryngology
of the LMU Hospital
(Prof. Dr. Martin Canis),
The Comprehensive Pneumology Center
(CPC, PD Dr Katrin Milger-Kneidinger),
The Asklepios Lung Specialist Clinic in Gauting
(Dr. med. Wolfgang Gesierich, PD Dr. med. Niels Reinmuth, Dr. Ina Koch),
Diabetes Centre of the Medical Clinic and Polyclinic V
(PD Dr. Andreas Lechner)
Radiooncology and Radiation Therapy of the Klinikum rechts der Isar
(Prof. Dr. Gabriele Multhoff)
Dr. von Haunersches Kinderspital, Scivias Study
(Prof. Dr. med. Dr. sci. nat. Christoph Klein)
Our efforts and studies are further strengthened by our very close collaboration with the newly established research institute
“Center for Molecular Fingerprinting” (CMF)
A comparison with mass spectrometry-based molecular profiling (Proteomics and Metabolomics) is being carried out in cooperation with the
Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry
(Prof. Dr. Matthias Mann).
Beyond the above-listed institutions, our medical network is further extended to other partners in Germany:
University Hospital Tübingen
(Prof. Dr. Nisar Peter Malek)
and Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin.
Lasers4Life has set grounds also in other countries and continents:
We are collaborating with the Medical University of Graz, Austria (Prof. Dr. Barbara Obermayer-Pietsch) focusing on an outstanding BioPersMed cohort (“Biomarkers for Personalised Medicine in Common Metabolic Disorders”).
The capacity to understand how different is an infrared molecular fingerprint from person to person and how it changes over time as we age, we have joined our forces with the Helmholtz Centre in Munich
Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
(Prof. Dr. Anette Peters, KORA study).
Here we assess the infrared molecular fingerprints at the level of populations.
We work closely with
Prof. Abdallah Azeer, Prof. Jean-Marc Nabholtz
and Prof. Khaled AlSaleh
from the King Saud University (KSU) and the King Saud University Medical Center (KSUMC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
We are together exploring the possibilities for infrared molecular fingerprinting in other populations (https://www.attoworld.sa/research.html).
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).