Examining Infrared Spectroscopy and its Role in Detecting Gynecological Cancers

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A recent study highlighted how infrared (IR) spectroscopy is being used in oncology to help detect the early onset of gynecological cancers.

Infrared (IR) spectroscopy is making great strides in detecting gynecological cancers, thanks to innovations in technology, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Molecular Science (1).

Gynecological cancers are a global health challenge, with early detection crucial for improving patient survival rates. These cancers often present vague early symptoms and conventional diagnostic techniques, while proficient, have limitations in sensitivity and specificity (1,2). This frequently results in late-stage detection, complicating treatment and reducing survival rates (1). Traditional methods like ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are essential for surgical guidance but often miss tiny metastases or fail to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors due to their inherent limitations in sensitivity and resolution (1,2).

Doctor holding digital tablet at meeting room | Image Credit: © Rido - stock.adobe.com.

Doctor holding digital tablet at meeting room | Image Credit: © Rido - stock.adobe.com.

Lead author Marijn M. Speeckaert from Ghent University Hospital and the rest of the team explored the recent advancements in infrared (IR) spectroscopy that has led the technique being used more often in the early detection and diagnosis of gynecological cancers.

Infrared (IR) spectroscopy, particularly Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) spectroscopy, offers a compelling solution by examining the molecular composition of cells and tissues (1). This method provides a detailed molecular fingerprint of tissue samples, detecting minute biochemical changes before they manifest as anatomical alterations (1). By capturing the distinct vibrational frequencies of chemical bonds within tissue samples, FT-IR spectroscopy can identify specific biomarker bands in the mid-infrared (MIR) and near-infrared (NIR) spectra (1). These spectral signatures, observed in proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids, not only distinguish between malignant and benign diseases but also provide insights into the cellular changes associated with cancer (1).

However, the widespread clinical adoption of FT-IR spectroscopy faces several challenges. Sample preparation heterogeneity can affect spectral signal consistency, which is complicated by spectral resolution and signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio (1). To mitigate these challenges, comprehensive statistical models and preprocessing techniques are essential. Methods such as principal component analysis (PCA), partial least squares (PLS) regression, and supervised learning techniques like support vector machines (SVMs) and neural networks (NNs) are crucial in ensuring reliable and consistent results (1).

The review article focuses on two areas: how using FT-IR spectroscopy in oncology and clinical practice will require more adjustments to be made, and the current innovations that are driving both FT-IR and the industry forward. As the authors write, regulatory hurdles and the necessity for extensive validation studies to confirm clinical relevance and reliability further complicate its adoption (1). To solve these issues, the authors argue that advances in sample preparation and adjustments to sample preparation protocols will be important, because doing so will help reduce costs and enhance data analysis techniques (1).

On the current innovations side of things, the research team highlighted the development and refinement of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMSs) technology as an important development. MEMS technology has led to the development of low-cost, portable devices (1). The researchers also cited the integration of IR spectroscopy with smartphones and the use of automated data analysis and cloud computing as another key advancement in the field. This is because this integration has eliminated the need for on-site expertise, making the technology more user-friendly and versatile (1).

The review by Speeckaert and his colleagues emphasizes how IR spectroscopy has helped to make progress in the field of oncology and propel the industry forward. This technique's ability to detect cancer at an early stage enhances the likelihood of successful treatment and favorable patient outcomes. The non-invasive, label-free nature of IR spectroscopy offers a significant advantage over current diagnostic methods, providing a key window for early intervention, ultimately improving patient outcomes and survival rates.


(1) Delrue, C.; De Bruyne, S.; Oyaert, M.; et al. Infrared Spectroscopy in Gynecological Oncology: A Comprehensive Review of Diagnostic Potentials and Challenges. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2024, 25 (11), 5996. DOI: 10.3390/ijms25115996

(2) John Hopkins Medicine, Gynecologic Cancers. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/gynecologic-cancers (accessed 2024-06-03).

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