Fluorescence-based Device for Fast, Painless Cancer Diagnosis

Technology #12846


The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a fluorescence-based device that uses a laser to selectively interact with potentially malignant tissue for faster and easier point-of-care cancer diagnosis. Because cancerous cells and healthy cells respond differently to excitation by lasers, healthcare providers can observe these divergent reactions with fluorescence imaging to instantly identify malignancy. This device will potentially reduce or even eliminate the need for painful diagnostic biopsies that can take weeks to yield results. During a biopsy, a surgeon or physician removes tissue from a patient using a needle or scalpel and sends the tissue to a lab for diagnosis. The worldwide market for cancer diagnostics is growing at nearly 11 percent annually and is projected to reach $8 billion by 2013. Every year, nearly 6.2 million skin, lung, breast, prostate and colorectal biopsies are performed in the United States. Not only are these biopsies painful, waiting for test results can cause extreme anxiety. One study showed that women awaiting breast biopsy results excrete the same amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) as women who were recently told they have cancer. The new diagnostic developed by University of Florida researchers will speed diagnosis with a purely light-based procedure that does not sacrifice diagnostic accuracy.


A laser-induced fluorescence-based device that allows for real-time cancer diagnosis and reduces the need for painful biopsies


  • Enables immediate point-of-care diagnosis of a tumor or growth, saving time and stress for both the physician and the patient
  • Permits in-house cancer diagnoses, eliminating the costs associated with shipping samples to outside labs for analysis
  • Does not require tissue removal, bypassing the need for painful, and sometimes risky, biopsies
  • Can include full imaging modalities, expanding potential applications


University of Florida researchers have coupled existing fluorescence detection technology with a laser for real-time cancer diagnosis, eliminating the need for painful incisions and tissue removal inherent to traditional biopsies. With our scheme, fluorescence imaging is used to capture a signal of the tumor in its original state. The tumor is then perturbed by a UF laser. This perturbation creates a permanent change in the optical response of the tumor, after which a second fluorescence signal is taken. Finally, the original image is subtracted from the second image, leaving only the visible perturbation of the tumor in view. This final image provides physicians with valuable visual information that allows them to quickly classify the tumor as either benign or malignant based on its reaction to the laser inducement.