On February 27th, 2015 the first technical review meeting of the HELICoiD project was held in Brussels, Belgium. HELICoiD, or HypErspectraL Imaging Cancer Detection, is a European collaborative project funded by the European Union and based on the use of hyperspectral imaging (also referred to as imaging spectroscopy) to discriminate between healthy and cancerous tissues. The main goal of the project is to improve the removal rate of malignant tumors.
Hyperspectral imaging is a non-ionizing, non-contact and minimal-invasive sensing technique that generates high-dimensional images with the help of sensor optics. This technology can provide more detailed information compared to conventional imaging, allowing real-time identification of healthy and malignant tissues during surgical procedures.
Researchers are analyzing the alterations in cellular physiology between healthy and malignant tissues to develop a mathematical model of the hyperspectral signature of cancer so that this technology can aid surgeons recognize the exact malignant tissues to be removed from the patient. In this system, non-invasive hyperspectral cameras are connected to a platform running a set of algorithms capable of identifying the cancer signature and provide visual information to the surgeon, where normal images can be overlapped with images with simulated colors indicating cancer probability in the tissue analyzed during every step of the surgical procedure.
Even though brain tumors are especially important for the HELICoiD team, as they resemble normal tissue more than any other type of cancer, other tumors will also be analyzed, namely lung and breast cancers, as these account for the highest incidence levels of cancer worldwide; lung cancer in particular is the primary cause of cancer deaths in both men and women.
The team believes that the HELICoiD project might represent a turning point in cancer detection. By offering a precise definition of the boundaries of the cancer tissue in real-time, hyperspectral imaging can potentially accelerate cancer diagnosis and improve proper cancer removal ultimately saving lives.
The first HELICoiD system prototype has been installed in a consortium of hospitals and is expected to generate several hyperspectral datasets. The project is due for completion in December 2016.