Photomedicine and Biophysical Microscopy of Cancer

Image Credit: Bryan Spring

Image Credit: Nima Davoudzadeh

The Spring Laboratory at Northeastern University bridges biophysics, biomedical optics and cancer biology to selectively target microscopic deposits of tumor cells left behind by standard therapies that limit our ability to cure many malignancies. Optical spectroscopic imaging and photophysics are applied to visualize and mop up this residual disease. The ultimate goal of the program is to reduce cancer recurrence and mortality by establishing new approaches for personalized medicine that address tumor heterogeneity, drug-resistance and molecular mechanisms of treatment escape.

Advanced-stage cancer patients are presently subjected to a grueling treatment regimen consisting of surgical tumor debulking and high-dose-intensity chemotherapy. These standard approaches frequently hit a wall due to dose-limiting toxicities as well as mechanisms of drug-resistance and treatment escape via cell signaling networks. To address these challenges, the group’s efforts focus on developments in photomedicine in concert with guidance from in vivo microscopy for the discovery of dynamic molecular mechanisms of treatment escape and for the rational design of therapeutic regimens that overcome resistance. In vivo imaging is used for microscopic-resolution “optical biopsy” to identify drug-resistant cancer cells and to monitor cell signaling events without the need for invasive surgeries and tissue biopsies that can miss smaller lesions. Near infrared light activation of molecular-targeted chromophores is applied to selectively damage drug-resistant cancer cells, to suppress mechanisms of treatment escape and to sensitize the tumor to systemic therapies—including chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

A major focus of the group is to develop multicolor microendoscopy and molecular-targeted agents for both imaging and therapy. The group builds new fluorescence microscopy tools (e.g., hyperspectral, lifetime-resolved and FRET imaging); develops real-time image computation software; designs and synthesizes molecular-targeted probes; and, develops mouse models of cancer when required.


09/06/2018 - Members of the Spring Lab present their work at the annual Smith Family Foundation Scientific Poster Session.

The Smith Family Awards Program for Excellence in Biomedical Research has awarded $32.8 million in grants to support 163 newly independent faculty over the past 26 years. Each investigator receives $300,000 over three years.

Professor Spring received this prestigious award in 2017 for his project entitled: "Peering into Cancer Stem Cell Niches to Guide Suppression of Multiple Signaling Loop Pathways"

05/15/2018 - Congrats to Ryan, Kai, Arvind, and Dr. Spring for their great presentations at the 2018 American Society for Photobiology Conference in Tampa Bay!

Site last updated: 12/19/2018