Prof. Byrne, you were the host of the Raman4Clincis meeting in Dublin. May you be able to give us a short impression about the outcome of the meeting?
Prof. Byrne: The FOCAS Research institute has been involved in the field of Biomedical applications of spectroscopy since ~2001. Since this time, we have increasingly had the opportunity to engage with the EU and broader international network in the field. In this context, the meeting allowed us to highlight our activity and expertise in the field, as well as that of other collaborators nationally, and to continue to build on these by consolidating existing and establishing further collaborative partnerships. Towards the translation of the research to clinical applications, concerted actions towards standardisation of protocols and development of coherent strategies for realistic targets are critical at this stage, and the meeting of the three working groups over the last three days made significant progress towards these ends. Specific actions were identified to initiate Multicentre trials as well as data sharing to validate and optimise data processing protocols. These actions could be a significant step towards advancing the technologies towards realistic applications potential. A further, although less tangible, outcome of the meeting is the degree of positivity and willingness to work as a community which was clearly evident. This lays the platform for significant further advances over the lifetime of Raman4Clinics.
Prof. Lyng, Prof. Byrne, you and your institute joined the Raman4Clinics Action. What was your motivation to do so?
Prof. Lyng: I was delighted to be invited to join the Raman4Clinics project and to be a member of the Management Committee and leader of Working Group 3. In DIT, we have been working on clinical applications of Raman spectroscopy for about 15 years and my motivation to join Raman4Clinics was to be part of a wider European network working towards translation of this technology into the clinic. Being part of the COST action allows us to exchange ideas and to combine our individual expertise to reach this common goal.
Prof. Byrne: In addition to the specific benefits of the structure of Raman4Clinics meetings and working group actions, it is important to extend the “joined up”, collaborative approach to the broader international community. In this context, I am International Members lead for the UK EPSRC Network CLIRSPEC, and a Director of the newly established International Society for Clinical Applications of Spectroscopy. In both cases, while there is a strong emphasis on Raman spectroscopy, the agenda is broadened to include Infrared Spectroscopy, the translation of which faces similar but in some cases distinct challenges. While a cohesive, focussed approach is critical for Raman4Clinics, it is important that a strong connection to other international activities is maintained.
Dr. Krafft, you attended the meeting as leader of Working Group 4. Are you satisfied with the outreach of the work within your group by now? Which achievements were already made?
Dr. Krafft: Due to a significant thematic overlap between workgroups 3, 4 and 5, a joint meeting was organized. These workgroups have not met before. For the first time workgroup members discussed unmet clinical needs in cytopathology, histopathology and intraoperative diagnosis using dedicated fibre optic probes. An interlaboratory round robin test was prepared. Presentations about current instrumentation and state-of-the-art applications stimulated separate breakout sessions of workgroups. These were important milestones for the future collaborative work of the COST action. The main achievements within the first grant period were to reach out potential users within bio and life sciences, disseminate the action’s objective and activities on events and conferences, and foster collaborations through short term scientific missions. Furthermore, a topical issue named Raman4Clinics was edited in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry.
From your point of view what is the benefit of the cooperation between the European research groups working on Raman technology?
Prof. Byrne: Raman Technology for clinical applications has reached a critical stage of development, at which the proof of concept has been well demonstrated by many studies across Europe and beyond, although much of the work has been at the level of academic research. It is crucial at this stage to identify realistic strategic targets for clinical translation, and in order to do this, it is critical to standardise protocols across the community and share experiences of engagement with the medical community. Europe has a strong record in this field and concerted collaborative actions such as Raman4Clinics will help consolidate this lead at the translational stage, yielding potential commercial benefits but also significant impacts on patient healthcare.
Prof. Krafft: Strong local clusters already exist between clinician and biophotonic groups in academia and industry. Within the COST network, these local clusters will be linked with the goal to establish Raman-based methodologies as diagnostic tools on a European level.
Dr. Lyng: The benefit of the COST network is to allow many groups throughout Europe to work together towards the goal of bringing Raman spectroscopy into the clinic. At this combined meeting of WG3, 4 and 5 held in Dublin, I was particularly struck by the willingness and openness of all partners to share information and ideas.
One goal of the Dublin meeting was to plan the further roadmap of the cooperation and to identify important milestones. Could you please summarize the results of the discussions on these issues?
Prof. Byrne: Although Raman4Clinics is still at a relatively early stage of development, important milestones in relation to standardisation of measurement and data processing protocols have been identified. Furthermore, the proposed format of the further meetings, which will be applications led, should further elucidate the roadmap.
Dr. Krafft: Based on a first questionnaire, the status quo of the partners was assessed. Round robin tests will be performed in two steps. First, Raman spectra of standard samples such as polymers, pharmaceuticals and solvents will be collected and compared between instruments and laboratories. A spectrum of a gas emission light source will check the wavenumber calibration. All spectra are saved as raw data and after typical processing. Second, workgroup specific samples will be selected for subsequent tests. More details are prepared within the next weeks.
Prof. Lyng: In the WG3 breakout sessions, following on from the clinical needs presentations by Prof John O’Leary (Coombe Women and Infants Hospital) and Prof Stephen Flint (Dublin Dental University Hospital), we discussed clinical needs in cytopathology and circulating tumour cell detection. We also discussed the proposed round robin experiment and working towards standardised protocols for sample preparation, data acquisition and data processing.