Imaging deep inside the human body is a fascinating yet challenging mission for obtaining detailed cellular-level information. This information can guide monitoring for disease development, observe immune activity in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases and assess real-time tumor response to therapy. One key application is unlocking immunotherapy in cancer for the over 50% of patients who do not initially respond to this game-changing therapy. For patients who do respond, the immune system is leveraged to fight previously incurable cancers, resulting in long-term, durable responses. For those who do not respond, detailed cellular-level information is needed to both identify non-responders early -when the window for cure is still viable - and to quickly pivot and assess the response of additional therapies. To date, this can only be accomplished by a biopsy and microscopic evaluation - as conventionally imaging cannot reveal multicellular changes at micron-scale. Biopsies though are impractical on a repeated basis. This has led us to propose a “wireless biopsy”, leveraging new innovations in optics fused with advances in CMOS technology to personalize medication based on the individual response of patients to the therapy.
Modern biomarkers provide robust fluorescence images from the targets inside the body, nevertheless, they rely on bulky optical devices to operate. Consequently, an implantable fluorescence imager sensor that can image small cavities of tumor cells in real-time to monitor the course of the treatment is critically needed.
Moreover, a miniaturized laser diode is essential to illuminate the tumor bed to propose a fully implantable system that can operate inside the patient's body. This project leverages silicon’s optical features to operate at NIR wavelengths together with high transfer power density of ultrasound waves inside tissue to propose an implantable imager that can provide a precise assessment of the treatment while operating standalone inside the body. As a result, we can provide surgeons with real-time information on the infiltration of the immune cells in the patient in any possible stage during cancer treatment process, starting from early examination and detection.