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Biotech

Cancer Cells Detected Using $400 Digital Camera 90

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the diy-medicine dept.
fergus07 writes "Researchers have detected oral cancer cells using a fiber-optic cable and an off-the-shelf Olympus E-330 camera worth $400. The work by Rice University biomedical engineers and researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center could improve access to diagnostic imaging tools in many parts of the world where these expensive resources are scarce. In the tests, a common fluorescent dye was used to make cell nuclei glow brightly and images were taken using the tip of the fiber-optic bundle attached to the camera. The distorted nuclei, which indicate cancerous and pre-cancerous cells, could then be distinguished on the camera's LCD monitor."
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Cancer Cells Detected Using $400 Digital Camera

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  • stats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @11:39AM (#32731810) Homepage

    A divining rod can detect water, too. What matters is the false positive and false negative rate.

    • While I agree that it's better to have more than one case to back up your findings, I think it's a little different in that these are medical professionals that are looking at cells, using an imaging device, like any other used to do the task.

      It's a little more like saying a $400 surveying tool can detect water when operated by a well engineer. What matters is the folse positive and false negative rate.

      All in all, it's kind of a cool story, but I have to wonder - what inspired them to even try this? Could i

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by aliquis (678370)

        The E-330 is an outdated four-thirds design. The four-thirds sensor is somewhat smaller than Canons APS-C-sized sensors and even more so than the regular APS-C-sized sensors used by Nikon, Sony, Pentax and so on.

        Smaller sensor should in general mean lower price.

        And it's as small as DSLR-sensors go.

        Of course you could most likely do it with any DSLR camera. But the example was most likely made to say "any cheap DSLR camera", not especially the E-330 (though it do have live view, something most of them do hav

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by aliquis (678370)

          Correction: Of course the SENSOR input is never shown in an optical viewfinder, the mirror reflects the image/light up to the optical viewfinder.

          But yeah, with live view the mirror stays up, the sensor fetches the light and it shows up on the display instead.

          (mirror-less cameras use electronic view finders instead.)

          • (mirror-less cameras use electronic view finders instead.)

            Not always. Some have an optical view finder just like the analog mirror-less cameras had.

            • by aliquis (678370)

              Yeah, stupid of me, but I meant the mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras, though even then it would have been possible to make it rangefinder style.

              And pellicle mirror cameras would be something inbetween.

      • FDA approval (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sycodon (149926)

        By the time the FDA approves this device for diagnostic use, it will be a $10,000 camera ann it will need to be operated by a licensed radiologist.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Bakkster (1529253)

          This exact method is already used [vizilite.com] by multiple [leddental.com] companies [trimira.net], and probably does cost about $10k. There is only UV light involved, so no radiology.

          The point of this device, is that the same technique can be done with a few hundred dollars of equipment in developing nations.

          • by X0563511 (793323)

            Key word people: in developing nations.

            These nations don't have the FDA. They also generally don't have access to the $10k equipment either. They take what they can get.

            • by Bakkster (1529253)

              I think it's less of a safety issue (although that's certainly part of it), and more of an Intellectual Property and user interface thing.

          • by chstwnd (1751702)
            I think sycodon's point was that the bureaucracy of the FDA will add testing, regulation, certification and licensing fees to the "simple solution" such that it is no longer simple or cost effective. In fact, if there's a $10k machine that does this already, the manufacturers of said machine will probably lobby for just such onerous regulations.
            • by Bakkster (1529253)

              And my point is that such is backwards thinking. It's like saying that gasoline engines will make electric cars noisier and produce more polution.

    • Re:stats (Score:4, Funny)

      by hedwards (940851) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @12:43PM (#32732692)
      I've actually had good luck with that myself. Not with water, but with locating coins and such. It varies from person to person to the extent that it works, but for those with the aptitude it's more than a little freaky. As far as I can tell it seems to be similar in nature to an actual metal detector.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You must have aced all your college statistics courses...

      • by hkmwbz (531650)
        Yeah, just like you won't see any aliens or be abducted by them unless you actually believe that they are visiting us? You need to be "special" (some magic stuff) for it to work!
      • by RDW (41497)

        My ADE 651 bomb detector [wikipedia.org] works on the same principle. Just this morning, I determined that the suspicious package on my left contains a dangerous explosive device, whereas the very similar package on my right is perfectly saf

        [No Carrier]

    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      It's a screening, and a visual inspection tool. It lets the doctor see abnormal tissue. It's therefor more likely to have a false positive (like nearly all screenings are intended to have).

      Fortunately, with oral lesions, a biopsy is simple and relatively safe (particularly compared to breast or testicular tissue), so the only downside of an unnecessary biopsy is cost.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hkmwbz (531650)
      A divining rod can, in fact, not detect water. Your comparison seems rather out of place...
      • Yep, everybody knows it is the diviner, not the diving rod, that finds the water.

        Not sure if I believe in water divination, but my grandparents had a diviner come out and tell them where to put their well. He picked a spot and told them how deep they would need to go to find water. They did put their well in the location he selected, and he was about 3 feet off in his prediction on the depth. No idea on how close a random guess would compare though, so not enough data for me to draw any real conclusions f
        • by hkmwbz (531650)
          Proper tests have shown no difference between dousing and random chance.
          • I figured as much, but still think it is strange the guy got that close if he was simply guessing. I guess that is why strange coincidences are strange.
            • Strictly speaking, his prediction was wrong. They dug to where he said and found no water - the nearest water was 3 feet away. How far away would the water need to be before you no longer thought he got it pretty much right? Did they try digging any other holes - perhaps there is water at that depth running under the majority of the area. If this is so it wouldn't matter where he told them to dig, they could have found water pretty close. What seem to be strange coincidences turn out to be near inevitabilit
              • No, they only dug the one hole. However the neighbors on the adjacent property had to dig 3 times before they hit water that was close enough to the surface for a well. They were just guessing. Again could be coincidence or just random chance, 2 cases isn't really enough to draw conclusions from.
    • The actual link to the actual article. [plosone.org]

      Could we please stop submitting blurbs like this, at least without the real articles. TFA in this case was two pictures, or else there was more behind a registration wall, and the -actual journal article- was on plosone, a completely free and open online publication, you don't even have to give them your e-mail address. I understand many of us don't like paywalls, but even when there is one, a link to it would be nice for the details, and again, this one didn't have a

  • Congress... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @11:41AM (#32731850)
    ... better get on this to make sure that this technology can't be used in the U.S. otherwise costs might go down. Similar to how we can't import drugs: medically, if it's cheap, it's dangerous.
    • by causality (777677)

      ... better get on this to make sure that this technology can't be used in the U.S. otherwise costs might go down. Similar to how we can't import drugs: medically, if it's cheap, it's dangerous.

      Yes but the trendy growth area [naturalnews.com] for Big Pharma these days is the use of common diseases that are usually just a nuisance to scare everyone into vaccination. Consider the language used here, concerning the individual decision to accept or reject a vaccination for common influenza:

      "Now no one should say 'Should I or shouldn't I?'" said CDC flu specialist Anthony Fiore.

      That's absolutely dripping with "we know what's good for you". Was that statement the result of a new medical breakthrough or discovery

      • by samkass (174571)

        As you mentioned in your own post, vaccines are not very profitable for pharma companies, which is why 95% of the flu vaccine manufacturers have gotten out of the business. And calling flu "the common flu" as if it's no more serious than a cold is disingenuous when it's one of the most deadly diseases in the world. Yes, it's "a personal choice" whether to vaccinate, just like drinking and driving (which kills far fewer people annually than flu) is a personal choice. At some point, though, people unwillin

        • by causality (777677)

          As you mentioned in your own post, vaccines are not very profitable for pharma companies, which is why 95% of the flu vaccine manufacturers have gotten out of the business.

          Nothing like a very large spike in demand for your product to make that product more profitable. Bonus points if it's driven by fear and not by dispassionate inquiry.

          And calling flu "the common flu" as if it's no more serious than a cold is disingenuous when it's one of the most deadly diseases in the world.

          Here I was thinking the most

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      Always makes you wonder though. Whenever they come up with a cheap way of treating something, they say "just think of the third world implications". I think we should really be looking at stuff like this for first world applications. Think of countries with government health care like Britain and Canada (also everyone except US it seems). I know that the province of Ontario spends 50% of their revenue on health care. If the government took a more cost savings approach, trying to use off the shelf consu
      • by hkmwbz (531650)

        Think of countries with government health care

        What about them? You think countries without government health care are any better off?

      • Insurance is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the political level
        Car mechanic is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the insurance level

        Pharmaceuticals is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the political level
        Medical is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the pharmaceutical level

        Oil is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the political level
        The car industry is a perpetual machine with payoffs at the oil industry level

        need we say more....

  • Yay! (Score:2, Funny)

    by RabbitWho (1805112)
    That's so cheap! Every hospital in the world can afford that! People can be screened for cancer cheaply at the tiniest sign. We'll catch it faster so we'll treat more people early! And research will be that bit easier!
    • The parent poster is correct about that. While that's not the total cost, you still need somebody with qualifications to interpret it, $400 is affordable in at least the first and second world countries and developing countries could still benefit from donated equipment.
      • Equipment costs are small relative to the personnel and facility costs. Besides, whether you use a $400 camera or a $2,000 "custom" (i.e OTS, integrated) CCD in a $50,000 detection machine where most of the money is in something other than hardware (i.e.: R&D, liability, marketing, OH&P), the net cost to consumers in any first world country will be the same.

        You didn't really think that this is going to have a $400 pricetag at your local doctor's office, did you? Worse yet, are you going to find a pr

        • A friend of mine in Canada had to wait 6 months just to get screened for cancer. Turned out she had it! Of course if she'd had money she could have paid for the screening, but she didn't have it.

          Anything that saves money is good. You save money on equipment you have more money to spend on doctors to do it. You can do more scans. I thought that was obvious.

          Saving 300 dollars is an easy choice if you have 300 dollars! That's almost a months wages where I live! And I live in the first world!
          What about
      • A friend of mine in Canada had to wait 3 months just to get screened for cancer. Turned out she had it! Of course if she'd had money she could have paid for the screening, but she didn't have it.

        Anything that saves money is good. You save money on equipment you have more money to spend on doctors to do it. You can do more scans. I thought that was obvious.
  • Great to know, but can I afford to treat it? Knowing I have cancer but being unable to afford treatment just seems like torture.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Great to know, but can I afford to treat it? Knowing I have cancer but being unable to afford treatment just seems like torture.

      Afford to treat it? Huh? You get sick, you go to a hospital or clinic. They treat it. You walk out. I (or any of my family or friends) have never been charged for any kind of treatment. Are you talking about buying special drugs or something?

      • What planet are you from?
    • by notjosh (1632271)
      You could surely bribe them by buying them a few thousand cameras :)
    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      It's possible that early detection will make treatment less expensive.

      That said, if you want to take that gamble, be my guest. This screening has been available for a while (my dentist performs it during yearly exams), so this change doesn't really change much.

  • Based on portability, performance and cost, you could make a case for using them both to lower health care costs in developed countries...

    Not in the US. And it never will until medical costs and fees become transparent to the consumer; people start taking care of themselves (eat and drink less, stop smoking, and get some exercise) and stop the cost is no object mentality when people are dieing. We're supposed to die. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep someone alive for another few days (if at all), drugged out of their mind is just a waste of resources.

    As one doctor said to me once, sometimes medicine does too much.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)

      Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep someone alive for another few days (if at all), drugged out of their mind is just a waste of resources.

      Perhaps for /you/ it is, but what about that person? What about that person's family? See thats the nice thing about freedom is that you shouldn't have to pay for what I want and I don't dictate what you want. Of course our government fucked us over long ago removing any true economic freedom....

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You are certainly free to pay out of your own pocket for extreme care, no one in the US or any other nominally free country (no matter what political side you are on) has said otherwise. It's a question of should *I* have to pay for your insistence that you be granted the freedom to spend a disgusting amount of money to extend one life by a trivial amount of time, especially when others are dying much younger, for want of much less expensive care...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Darkness404 (1287218)
          If we had a free economy, it would be no issue. In all honesty the idea of having health insurance to pay for tiny little things is completely and utterly backwards. Health insurance should be to pay for -major- things, like if you were in a car accident and needed major surgery, if you got cancer and had expensive treatment. However, today health insurance is used to pay for tiny little expenses, why? You shouldn't need health insurance to go to the doctor to get a check up, you shouldn't need health insur
          • by jeffmeden (135043)

            They tried to offer plans for health maintenance (used regularly) vs health insurance (used in extenuating circumstances) but it got too confusing and redundant. The bottom line is that if you want to be healthy in the long run you need all those regular little "tiny little things" like check ups and teeth cleanings. This is what keeps the need for the other kind of insurance relatively low.

            But then the slippery slope takes over and as soon as people see insurance as "whatever they want for free" they cou

            • As for the "free market", medicine has gotten way too complicated and expensive for people to need to vet every decision their doctor makes. Do you think doctors would magically just start being more honest and effective if their were less regulation? Just like bankers take the opportunity of deregulation to be more open and efficient and respectful of the consumer? Regulate in transparency and let people see what they are getting. Otherwise, there is nothing stopping fear mongering crooks from taking over that industry, too.

              Yes, because otherwise they would lose business. If you had to jump through hoops, you would just go to a different doctor which was more friendly and helpful. As for bankers, we don't have deregulation, we just had multiple sets of regulations, some were better others were worse, we haven't had deregulation in the financial sector in our lifetimes. And the main problem with the banking system is because we have fiat currency, we have things that don't make sense in a "hard money" system like fractional r

            • Insurance will only be cheap when it can target people who can be demonstrably responsible for their health. Proving that, though, is a tall order indeed.

              Safeway has done a pretty good job cutting costs using that method [wsj.com].

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            We only need health insurance for "little things" because "little things" cost so much. Do you really want to pay $200 (it's probably more) out of pocket every time you need to get the doctor to give you a prescription for your kids ear ache? The reason we insure for everything is because even the most basic things cost large amounts of money.
            • But -why- does it cost so much? It is illogical that to see a doctor for about 5 minutes and get some medicine which is made out of incredibly common compounds that it would cost $200. So why is it that it costs that much? My guess is that it is multi-fold, the main thing being that doctors have to fill out so much paperwork that what takes them 5 minutes to accurately diagnose takes them many times that long to fill out the corresponding paperwork then expenses with malpractice insurance and the like, etc.
              • by CastrTroy (595695)
                I think it's more to do with the fact that there aren't that many doctors around, and therefore their time is valuable. If instead, you could visit a nurse, or some other less skilled person for common ailments, and get the proper drugs, then it would probably be a lot cheaper. Think about if casts for broken bones were done the same way as fixing a car or a computer. Go into "bone fixing services", they get some person to take an X-ray (low skilled), and get somebody who is trained to put on casts to pu
      • by RobDude (1123541)

        Sure - provided THEY can actually PAY for the treatment; then yes. By all means.

  • Cost? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 29, 2010 @11:50AM (#32731974)

    Soo... a $400 camera and a $10,000 fiber optic cable?

    • More like $2500 in lab-grade mounts and fiber, judging by the photo in the article.

    • by Gerafix (1028986)
      Hey, cables are important. That $10,000 fiber optic cable is probably 24k gold plated, micro-crystalline silver contacts, and imported Swiss glass because Swiss sand holds the optimum current, for true reproduction of the photons warm tones. Hey wait...
    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      No, go to monoprice and get the $5 fiber optic cable, instead of the $10,000 Monster Cable fiber optic cable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... or rather, was, until I discovered how boring staring down a microscope every day actually was, jumped ship, and rejoined the land of the living. What working as a pathology resident did teach me, however, is just how fucking complicated cancer diagnosis is and how incredibly smart pathologists are. These guys have 5 straight years of pushing pushing glass and reading textbooks, and often have a completely encyclopedic knowledge of disease and cell morphology. Absolutely useless in the real world, and o

  • could you attach a fiber optic bundle to your camera? sounds like a custom job to me.
  • Coat everything in a thick and bulky neutral colored plastic shell and charge $40,000 and you'll start to have an actual medical imaging product.
  • We are taking about medical procedures and Cancer. Use the damn $20k camera.

    • It's about having low cost equipment out in the wilds of anywhere. It's a lot cheaper to detect cancer in sub-saharan Africa and send one person into the city to get the real test vs the entire village.

      Actually, it's cheaper to just let them die without anything, but that's not the point.

    • Why? From what I can see in the article, the camera itself doesn't look like it matters very much, as long as it has some minimum resolution. The new method seems to be the fiber connection and termination.

  • To actually sell this system, you'd have to hide it inside a big beige box and slap a $400,000 sticker on it. This is, sadly, not a joke.
  • The problem with this is that it does not detect cancer cells but anomalies that may be cancer cells. All the dentist can do is refer one to an oral surgeon who will just look at the tongue and ask if one has bitten it accidentally in the last few days. They are not going to do a biopsy on something they can not see and they are not trained to interpret the photos.

  • The article mentions an olympus camera, but I don't see any reason in principle why other camera makers couldn't also be used. If they could put this function into CHDK, it'd be pretty awesome.

    • The advantage of the E-330 over other dSLRs is that it has mirror-down live view with a dedicated live-view sensor and a swivel LCD display. This way the primary imaging sensor does not heat up to cause digital noise, and it's much easier to frame. Other consumer live-view implementations before and since use the primary imaging sensors for the image view. These sensors often overheat quickly and cause a degradation in imaging quality.
  • Wait... So a $400 camera attached to fiber optics worth $5k... I think there's a slight misconception of what is the costy part of the system.
  • Cancer cells don't have fingers...

An age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it. -- James Michener, "Space"

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