UroDigiTrans – from digitorectal to digital transformation of diagnosis and therapy in urogenital tumors with label-free IR imaging

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„This project is funded as part of the European Union’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The project funding is intended to help transfer our imaging technique from the laboratory to clinical application based on prostate and urinary bladder cancer.

Particularly in the case of cancer, early and precise diagnosis is important for the further progression of the disease and the chances of cure. Researchers at the Center for Protein Diagnostics (PRODI) at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) have developed a new digital imaging technique that expands the research possibilities of urogenital tumors and could also support diagnostics. The further development of so-called label-free IR imaging is funded by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia with almost 600,000 euros in the REACT-EU equipment program to promote digitalization in clinical medical and health research.

From the laboratory to clinical application

To enable highly accurate spectral analysis of tissue by combining label-free infrared (IR) imaging and analysis of the obtained image data with the latest bioinformatics techniques, we rely on artificial intelligence (AI). A state-of-the-art quantum cascade laser-assisted IR imaging microscope is expected to allow precise analysis in the shortest possible time.

The project will set up a transportable version of our IR imaging approach, which can be moved to, for example, the pathology institute for testing. In parallel, the data and insights gained will be used to improve the AI models for prostate and urinary bladder carcinomas currently under development and to correlate them more deeply with clinical data in order to explore the limits of the methodology.

This is made possible by be evaluated in close cooperation with the Department of Urology at the Marien Hospital Herne and the Institute of Pathology at the RUB. Thus, the method is to be primarily evaluated in a study on prostate carcinoma. Prostate carcinomas are currently the most common tumor disease with the second highest mortality rate in men in Germany. If abnormalities are found in a patient, a tissue sample of the prostate is taken for further diagnosis. The samples obtained are histologically evaluated by a pathologist. The evaluation of the biopsies requires a high level of training and experience in order to make the most accurate diagnosis possible.

Label-free IR imaging could become a valuable support here in modern clinical diagnostics. It analyzes the tissue not only morphologically, but also at the molecular level in the same step, and thus – we hope – can support a more targeted approach. Following a successful initial application in prostate carcinoma, the system will also be transferred to bladder carcinomas.