Perspective on quantitative phase imaging to improve precision cancer medicine

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March 29, 2024
Journal of Biomedical Optics (SPIE)
Y. Liu and S. Uttam

Significance: Quantitative phase imaging (QPI) offers a label-free approach to non-invasively characterize cellular processes by exploiting their refractive index based intrinsic contrast. QPI captures this contrast by translating refractive index associated phase shifts into intensity-based quantifiable data with nanoscale sensitivity. It holds significant potential for advancing precision cancer medicine by providing quantitative characterization of the biophysical properties of cells and tissue in their natural states.

Aim: This perspective aims to discuss the potential of QPI to increase our understanding of cancer development and its response to therapeutics. It also explores new developments in QPI methods towards advancing personalized cancer therapy and early detection.

Approach: We begin by detailing the technical advancements of QPI, examining its implementations across transmission and reflection geometries and phase retrieval methods, both interferometric and non-interferometric. The focus then shifts to QPI’s applications in cancer research, including dynamic cell mass imaging for drug response assessment, cancer risk stratification, and in-vivo tissue imaging.

Results: QPI has emerged as a crucial tool in precision cancer medicine, offering insights into tumor biology and treatment efficacy. Its sensitivity to detecting nanoscale changes holds promise for enhancing cancer diagnostics, risk assessment, and prognostication. The future of QPI is envisioned in its integration with artificial intelligence, morpho-dynamics, and spatial biology, broadening its impact in cancer research.

Conclusions: QPI presents significant potential in advancing precision cancer medicine and redefining our approach to cancer diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Future directions include harnessing high-throughput dynamic imaging, 3D QPI for realistic tumor models, and combining artificial intelligence with multi-omics data to extend QPI’s capabilities. As a result, QPI stands at the forefront of cancer research and clinical application in cancer care.