There are only a few procedures that can detect very early signs of cancer. Those that do are often invasive, expensive and uncomfortable, leading to poor screening rates. With support from the National Science Foundation, Vadim Backman of Northwestern University is developing technology that would enable cheaper, more comfortable and less invasive tests for cancer in its earliest stages. He’s doing it by shedding light on cancer cell development…quite literally. Backman says that when cancer starts developing, cells in other parts of the body start to undergo changes that can be detected at a nanoscale level with light. For example, lung cancer can be detected in the cheek with a cheek swab or colorectal cancer can be detected in the cells of the rectum. He tested the new technology on colon and lung cancer cells with an accuracy of 85% or higher!