NanoMslide is a Eureka Prize finalist

A high-tech microscope slide promising to revolutionize medical imaging has been named a Eureka Prize finalist for 2022, in the Innovative Use of Technology category.

Developed by La Trobe University researchers in partnership with Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Garvan Institute of Medical Research, the NanoMslide enables pathologists to detect breast cancer at the earliest stage of development.

Co-inventor Professor Brian Abbey, Deputy Director of the La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science (LIMS) and Professor of Physics at La Trobe University, said by applying a coating created using cutting edge nanofabrication technology, the research team has turned the humble glass microscope slide into a diagnostic lab.

“Comparing images from our slides to conventional staining is a bit like watching colour television when all you’ve seen before is black and white,” Professor Abbey said.

“The coating on the slide causes light to interact differently with cancer tissue compared to healthy tissue which results in a striking colour contrast, making it easier to detect abnormal cells.”

Professor Abbey said the NanoMslide could make diagnosing early-stage breast cancer fast, cost-effective and more reliable.

“The slide can be used on any microscope, anywhere – from a world-class hospital to a field clinic in a developing country – meaning the possibilities are endless,” Professor Abbey said.

Professor Abbey has spent more than six years developing the technology along with co-inventor Dr Eugeniu Balaur, also at La Trobe University, and Associate Professor Belinda Parker, a cancer research expert from Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

They demonstrated how it could be used to accurately diagnose very early-stage breast cancer, as part of a pre-clinical patient study (published in Nature in 2021).

This work was conducted in collaboration with the Garvan Institute in Sydney using samples collected as part of a National Breast Cancer screening program.

Associate Professor Parker said early diagnosis is critical in breast cancer patients.

“More and more cancers are now being diagnosed at an early, pre-invasive stage. Accurate diagnosis of this stage of breast cancer is critical for early intervention and better patient outcomes,” Associate Professor Parker said.

“NanoMslide allows cancer cells to be distinguished from surrounding normal tissue, increasing the chance of picking up very few cancer cells in a complex tissue under the microscope. This has huge potential for early diagnosis.”

Clear detection of early cancer cells has wide ranging implications, from more successful patient outcomes to a reduction in the side effects of treatments, to a massive reduction in the cost of treatment.

Whilst this initial research has focused on breast cancer, the applications for NanoMslide are wide ranging, with lung, melanoma, and colon cancer already being explored for future diagnostic applications.

The technology has the potential to be used across multiple industries where precise detection of specific chemicals is required.

The NanoMslide is a finalist in the 2022 Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology. Eureka Prize 2022 winners will be announced on Wednesday, 31 August 2022.

About the Eureka Prize

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards, honouring excellence across the areas of research and innovation, leadership, science engagement, and school science.

Presented annually in partnership with some of the nation's leading scientific institutions, government organisations, universities and corporations, the Eureka Prizes raise the profile of science and science engagement in the community by celebrating outstanding achievement.

Since the prizes were established in 1990, more than four million dollars in prize money, and a total of 451 Eureka Prizes have been awarded.

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