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Cancer Screening | Light measurements in cheek for early detection of tumours

Light measurements in cheek for early detection of tumours

A simple light measurement with a device on the inside of the cheek may detect the presence of tumours in the head-neckline area, oesophagus or lungs at an early stage. This considerably increases the chance of effective treatment, or even cure.

TNO, together with Erasmus MC, has achieved promising results in a first small pilot study. If a larger study were to confirm these results, the intention is to develop a compact and affordable measuring device. TNO's top-notch knowledge in the field of light-tissue interaction increasingly benefits various domains within the medical sector.

Detecting cancer early

Previous American research has shown that tumours develop in certain places at the end of the intestinal system, and that the mucous membrane cells of the cheeks are receptive to similar stimuli, such as smoking, as the almost identical mucous membrane cells of the lungs, oesophagus and throat. Therefore TNO wanted to investigate whether by measuring the mucus of the cheek, indications could be detected for the development of cancer in these nearby tissues. In collaboration with Erasmus MC and financed by the KWF/Alpe d'Huzes, this was investigated in a first pilot study for oesophageal, lung and head-neck cancer.

Risk groups

A brief measurement with a kind of lamp on the inside of the cheek is sufficient to make a better risk assessment of the patient. For people at high risk, diagnostic examinations in the hospital must clarify whether a tumour actually exists. If the device is available on a large scale, many more people from risk groups can be reached and promptly referred for additional diagnostic examination.

Sharing knowledge with industry

TNO wants to share with industry its knowledge of the interaction between light and tissue through a combination of optical and biological expertise in order to develop innovative medical equipment for early diagnosis. The aim is to equip all general practitioners' practices with this effective measuring equipment in the future.

We are happy to engage in dialogue with parties who want to invest in this and help develop equipment further.

If you are interested,

please get in touch with us.


Eddy Zwier MSc

  • Technology transfer
  • Startups
  • Spin-offs
  • Corporate venturing


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