The development of medical imaging and monitoring methods has profoundly impacted the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. These non-invasive techniques allow health care practitioners to look for cancer in the body as well as determine if treatment is working.
But current techniques have limitations, namely, tumours need to be a certain size to be visible. Being able to detect cancer cells, even before there are enough to form a tumour, is a challenge that researchers around the world are looking to solve.
IQC researchers have developed a quantum sensor that is promising to outperform existing technologies in monitoring the success of cancer treatments.
“A sensor needs to be very efficient at detecting light,” explained principal investigator Michael Reimer, an IQC faculty member and professor in the Faculty of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “What’s unique about our sensor is that the light can be absorbed all the way, from ultraviolet to infrared. No commercially available device exists that can do that now.”
When applied to dose monitoring in cancer treatment, this enhanced ability to detect every photon means that a health practitioner could monitor the dose being given with incredible precision. This ensures enough is administered to kill the cancer cells, but not too much that it also kills healthy cells.
Beyond dose monitoring for cancer treatments, the next generation quantum sensor also has the ability to significantly improve high-speed imaging from space and long-range high-resolution 3D images.
Reimer is now working on a prototype to begin testing outside of his lab. His goal is to commercialize the sensor in the next three to five years. “I enjoy the fundamental research, but I’m also interested in bringing my research out of the lab and into the real world and making an impact on society,” said Reimer.