Melissa Skala plenary presentation: Imaging Cellular Heterogeneity in Cancer
Melissa Skala of Vanderbilt University discusses her work in developing patient-centric models for treating pancreatic cancers, one of the most lethal forms of cancer. By the time of diagnosis, patients are typically late stage with only 6-24 months to live. This leaves very little time for the typical trial-and-error approach for finding the optimum medication for treating an individual patient's tumor.
In Skala's approach, biological tumor samples are used to create "tumors-in-a-dish," also called organoids, which are optically accessible. A panel of drug treatments is given to the set of organoids, and optical metabolic imaging (OMI) is performed to assess the efficacy of each drug, thereby rapidly determining the optimum treatment regimen for the particular patient from whom the organoids were derived.
Skala has developed and translated optical imaging and spectroscopy techniques to quantify changes in optical biomarkers including cellular metabolism, blood oxygenation and concentration, microvessel network structure and perfusion, and collagen content. She has also developed new molecular imaging modalities that combine the power of optics and nanotechnology. Her areas of interest include optical coherence tomography, multiphoton and fluorescence lifetime microscopy, optical spectroscopy, nanotechnology, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.