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Jack Francisco

Health Science, '22


Integrated diffraction-based diagnostic for point-of-care screening

Mentor: Cesar Castro, M.D. (Massachusetts General Hospital)

Being the third leading cancer in women worldwide, cervical cancer occurs much in areas with limited resources, and high rates of HPV infection. DNA testing for high-risk HPV has been discovered to have far superior specificity and sensitivity compared to visual inspection via acetic acid (VIA), or even cytology (Pap smears). However, due to the large amounts of maintenance and equipment costs for HPV testing, and how limited it is to only certain laboratories, a point-of-care machine was developed instead. Using digital microholography, the machine requires minimal optical configuration for a wide field-of-view cm2 with high resolution on a sub-micron scale, all at a low cost. To make the machine more efficient and effective for clinical trials, the team under the Center for Systems Biology and MGH Cancer Center believe that proteomics should be integrated with HPV DNA for multiplexed POC analyses. By identifying certain proteins found in HPV high-risk subtypes, women with this infection will be more accurately identified, and treated, depending on the invasiveness of their infection. In addition, to further the feasibility and clinical utility of the assay in resource-poor regions, an isothermal amplification method will be included, and the assay will extended to other high-risk HPV stains besides HPV 16 and 18 to improve specificity. With the completion of these goals, cancer screening in areas lacking the proper resources would thus be enhanced to near “state of the art” technology, and the technology could be used for other high-risk HPV subtypes that lead to many different cancer types. Lastly, this technology will help spread out the benefits of cancer treatment to areas missing the proper health care needed for its affected populations.

The picture above shows the point-of-care machine, the D3 platform, and how it is used to detect malignant cells in patient samples through digital holography. Source: