Rebecca Richards-Kortum's research focuses on developing optical technologies for detecting cervical precancer in vivo. Her HHMI project involves expanding an internship program that immerses bioengineering majors in all aspects of biomedical research; broadly disseminating the curriculum of Bioengineering and World Health, a course for nonscience majors; and modifying this curriculum for use in high schools and middle schools.
High-Resolution Imaging for Early Cancer Detection
In the next 20 years, the number of global deaths caused by cancer will double, largely because of increases in cancer incidence in low- and middle-income countries. Detecting cancer before metastasis begins dramatically improves the odds of survival; when detected late, cancer treatment is less effective, has greater morbidity, and is more expensive. Early detection is the best and most cost-effective means to improve survival and quality of life for patients with cancer.
Research in our lab is focused on the development of inexpensive, rugged, and portable optical molecular imaging systems to aid in the early detection and molecular characterization of cancer. Integrating advances in micro-optical engineering, nanotechnology, genomics, and drug delivery, molecular imaging systems provide the ability to monitor and quantify molecular, morphologic, and architectural biomarkers of early cancer and its precursors. Collaborations in Houston, New York, Brazil, India, and Botswana are now under way to optimize and translate these high-performance, low-cost optical molecular imaging platforms to improve global cancer prevention efforts.