Laser-based interventions for improving cancer treatment

Nguyen, Hieu Thi Minh
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Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 1.8 million new cases and 600,000 deaths annually in 2020. The biggest hurdle in cancer treatment is in completely eradicating all invasive tumor cells, which prevents cancer recurrence and enhances survival rate. Laser based interventions offer unique abilities to sense cancer cells and stimulate biological responses, both of which can be used to enhance cancer treatment. This thesis addresses two interventions aimed at improving cancer survival rate: 1) guidance of surgical resections and 2) systemic immune therapeutics. In the first part of the thesis, we applied non-destructive, fast, and label-free spectroscopy approaches for surgical guidance in skin cancer excision. Our study utilized multimodal spectroscopy with diffuse reflectance, Fluorescent, and Raman to assist tumor margin assessment. Our findings suggested that Raman spectroscopy provided the best diagnosis power among the three techniques and combined modality. We further studied the correlation between Raman measurements and its underlying tissue anatomy. We identified key diagnostic markers to accurately differentiate nonmelanoma cancer from normal skin, highlighting this method's potential in intraoperative tumor margin assessment. In the second part of the thesis, we used laser nanobubbles (bubbles generated around nanoparticles from irradiation with nanosecond pulsed laser radiation) as novel cancer therapy to trigger immunogenic cell death in breast cancer cells. We also applied a new approach to characterize laser nanobubbles' dynamics with optical coherence tomography. We demonstrated for the first time that laser nanobubbles provided a fast, highly specific therapy to eradicate tumor cells and elicit immunogenic cell death, highlighting this approach's potential as a candidate combination strategy for immunotherapy.