Colloquium: Jennifer K. Barton

    Thursday, October 3, 2013 - 3:30pm - 5:00pm
    Meinel 307

    "Endoscopic Optical Imaging: A New Hope for Ovarian Cancer Screening?"


    Optical methods of investigating tissue have the advantages of high sensitivity, high resolution, relatively low cost and ability to sense both structural and biochemical characteristics of tissue. The limited penetration depth of light can be partially offset by endoscopic delivery using small-diameter fiber optics. Optical techniques including optical coherence tomography, multiphoton microscopy and multispectral imaging have been shown to be more sensitive to early stages of cancer than traditional white-light endoscopy alone.

    Despite advances in treatment, ovarian cancer remains the most deadly female reproductive malignancy, and 70 percent of women who develop this cancer die from it. No effective screening technique has been demonstrated, leading many at high risk to opt for prophylactic removal of the ovaries. However, in addition to reproductive function loss, oophorectomy can shorten lifespan.

    In this talk, I will discuss the potential to apply optical imaging technique to the early detection of ovarian cancer. Initial studies in women and preclinical models show promise. To be widely accepted, however, an access method less invasive than laparoscopy (incision in the abdomen) needs to be developed. The ovaries can be accessed in a minimally invasive fashion through the reproductive tract; however, the technical constraints on such a system are severe. I will discuss two possibilities for access and efforts towards creation of endoscopes that image the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

    Speaker Bio(s): 

    Jennifer K. Barton received B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of California, Irvine, respectively. She worked for McDonnell Douglas (now the Boeing Co.) in the International Space Station program before returning to the University of Texas, Austin, to obtain a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering in 1998. She is currently professor of biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, optical sciences, and agriculture and biosystems engineering at the University of Arizona. In 2012 she became the University's associate vice president for research, and in 2013 she began serving as interim vice president for research.

    Barton develops miniature endoscopes that combine multiple optical imaging techniques, particularly optical coherence tomography and fluorescence spectroscopy. She evaluates the suitability of these endoscopic techniques for detecting early cancer development in patients and preclinical models. Additionally, her research into light-tissue interaction and dynamic optical properties of blood laid the groundwork for a novel therapeutic laser to treat disorders of the skin’s blood vessels. She has published over 80 peer-reviewed journal papers in these research areas.

    Barton previously was assistant director of the BIO5 Institute, a collaborative research institute dedicated to solving complex biology-based problems affecting humanity. She served as the inaugural head of the UA Biomedical Engineering Department and chair of the BME Graduate Interdisciplinary Program. She is a fellow of SPIE, the International Optics Society, and the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.