Biophotonics-based Endo Probe Eliminates Tissue Biopsy

Biophotonics-based Endo Probe Eliminates Tissue Biopsy


Jul 24, 2017

Blog Photonics Biophotonics-based Endo Probe Eliminates Tissue Biopsy

Healthcare is moving from a treatment-oriented system to a diagnostic-oriented one to help decrease healthcare spending on treatment (e.g., drugs, chemotherapy, etc.). This growing trend makes an interesting and encouraging scenario for the use of biophotonics as a novel approach to cancer detection/diagnosis.

In Europe, scientists are developing a new endoscope that will help identify and diagnose precancerous polyps and early colon cancers. The minimally invasive endoscope uses innovative photonics technology to enable rapid, accurate diagnosis of bowel polyps and early colon cancer.

The initiative to develop the device, known as the Piccolo Project, endeavors to combine optical coherence tomography with multiphoton tomography to create high-resolution structural and functional imaging. Project scientists believe the technology will allow them to observe changes at the cellular level, a probe that will allow image-based diagnosis without tissue biopsies.


Worldwide, colon cancer remains the third most common cancer in men, behind lung and prostate cancer, and second in women, behind breast cancer. Colorectal cancer ranks as one of the world’s most predominant cancers, affecting approximately one in 10 people and causing almost 700,000 annual deaths globally.

Funded under Horizon 2020, the European Union’s research and innovation program, the multidisciplinary Piccolo Project team’s proposed endoscope will be based on optical coherence tomography (OCT) and multi-photon tomography to provide gastroenterologists immediate and detailed in situ identification of colorectal neoplastic lesions. The device will also facilitate accurate and reliable in vivo diagnostics, with grading capabilities for colon cancer.

The Piccolo Project comprises nine European industrial and research partners, led by Spain's Tecnalia Research & Innovation research center.

"We hope that Piccolo will provide major benefits over traditional colonoscopy," says Artzai Picon, a researcher with Tecnalia. "By developing an advanced endoscope using both OCT and MPT, we will provide high-resolution structural and functional imaging, giving details of the changes occurring at the cellular level comparable to those obtained using traditional histological techniques."

The probe would eliminate the need for tissue sampling and subsequent biopsies, thus offering a less invasive and more patient-friendly approach.

Typically, multiple polyps detected in a patient require their immediate removal for subsequent tissue analysis. However, the Piccolo probe might eliminate this procedure, thus creating a less-invasive and friendlier patient approach.

"Removal of polyps which carry no malignant potential, termed hyperplastic polyps, and the subsequent costly histolopathological analysis might be avoided through the use of the Piccolo endoscope probe, which could allow image-based diagnosis without the need for tissue biopsies," Picon explains.

The Piccolo team, which hopes to complete a prototype of the probe by 2018, is targeting clinical trials for 2020.

The growing applications of biophotonics and its increasing use in medical, biological and agro devices are driving industry growth. BCC Research reports that the global biophotonics market should reach $53.8 billion in 2021, up from $32.2 billion in 2016, demonstrating a 10.8% CAGR.

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    Clayton Luz

    Written By Clayton Luz

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