Dr. ir. D.J. Faber

Scientific staff member (UD)
Main activities
Research, Teaching
biomedical optics, optical coherence tomography and spectroscopy, physics of light-tissue interactio
Focus of research

A couple of years ago, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Last year, skin cancer was found, on his forehead. Even though the locations of the cancers could hardly be farther apart, the diagnosis had one thing in common: he had to undergo biopsy: tissue has been taken out to be evaluated under a microscope. Taking biopsies is evidently a burden to the patient, it is both difficult and expensive, and it gives the doctor an incomplete picture because there is no information on the tissue surrounding the biopsy. This motivated me to investigate the potential of Optical Coherence Tomography - a 3D imaging technique developed for ophthalmology - for cancer diagnostics: I work together with physicist, engineers and doctors on Functional Optical Biopsy.

Functional Optical Biopsy combines optical techniques to get information on tissue anatomy, structure and physiological function at resolutions approaching the cellular level. The heart of our methods is Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), an imaging technique that provides micrometer scale 3D images of tissue volumes. Using OCT and Spectroscopic OCT, physiological endpoints as flow, perfusion, oxygenation and biochemical composition can be measured. Combined with e.g. (darkfield) reflection spectroscopy and multi-photon fluorescence imaging, even better characterization of suspected lesions will be possible. The doctors will use this information improve the selection of biopsy sites from information from the lesion and improve treatment planning from the information from the lesions surroundings.

The scope of the research in my group can broadly be summarized in 4 topics:

  • Physical understanding of the optical signals. Absorption and fluorescence spectra reflect the biochemical composition of the tissue. Quantification of these spectra is challenging, especially when measured in patients. Next to these, the measured signals are determined by light scattering, which reflects the nano-scale organization of the tissue. The relation between morphological changes in or between cells and light scattering is not yet completely understood. We address this problem with out-of-the-box modelling of our signals, for example by connecting measured signal statistics (mean, variance, correlation scales) to a statistical descriptions of the sample organization.
  • Novel instrumentation. We aim to evaluate and validate our technology in the only setting that matters: in the clinic, with patients. Instrumentation that is compatible with existing procedures and protocols is thus paramount. In collaboration with our clinical collaborators and partners from industry, we have several exciting projects underway.
  • Novel contrast mechanisms. We continuously seek to improve contrast between normal and diseased tissues in our measurement. This includes nanoparticle based contrast agents, such as gold nanoparticles, and extends to toxicity assessment.
  • Clinical application is assured via a close collaboration with several departments within our hospital. OCT debuted in ophthalmology; today we collaborate with the urology department (applications in bladder, kidney, urether, prostate), the department of cardiology and the department of reconstructive surgery, as well as with the gyneacology department of the Dutch Cancer Institute.

We recently had the following projects granted:

  • iOCT (vacancy for PhD student, 4y): Funded by AgentschapNL, in this project we will dramatically enhance the image quality and at the same time reduce cost of ophthalmic OCT systems, together with the Technical University of Delft, TNO, and Focal BV.
  • OBAMA (vacancy for PhD student, 4y): Funded by STW in the "Perspectief programme iMIT", together with the VU Free University and the companies DEAM BV, Innoluce BV, and Philips BV, we will apply a combination of OCT and multiphoton microscopy to the diagnosis of bladder cancer.
  • PROSPECT (vacancy for PhD student, 4y): Funded by STW in the "Perspectief programme iMIT", together with the Erasmus Medical Center (Rotterdam), Luminostix BV and Nucletron BVwe will develop a combination of spectroscopic OCT and reflection spectroscopy for the diagnosis of prostate cancer 

To date, the number of people involved in this research line is approximately 10 from the department of Biomedical Engineering and Physics, and 10 from clinical collaborators. We work closely together with related research groups of the University of Amsterdam, the VU Free University, and the Dutch Cancer Institute.  

Key publications
  • Faber DJ, Aalders MCG, Mik EG, Hooper BA, van Gemert MJC, van Leeuwen TG, Oxygen saturation-dependent absorption and scattering of blood. PHYS REV LETT 2004;93 (2):028102 [PubMed]
  • de Bruin DM, Bremmer RH, Kodach VM, de Kinkelder R, van Marle J, van Leeuwen TG, Faber DJ, Optical phantoms of varying geometry based on thin building blocks with controlled optical properties. J BIOMED OPT 2010;15 (2):025001 [PubMed]
  • Faber DJ, van Leeuwen TG, Are quantitative attenuation measurements of blood by optical coherence tomography feasible?. OPT LETT 2009;34 (9):1435-1437 [PubMed]
  • van Velthoven MEJ, van der Linden MH, de Smet MD, Faber DJ, Verbraak FD, Influence of cataract on optical coherence tomography image quality and retinal thickness. BRIT J OPHTHALMOL 2006;90 (10):1259-1262 [PubMed]
  • Cauberg ECC, de Bruin DM, Faber DJ, van Leeuwen TG, de La Rosette JJMCH, de Reijke TM, A new generation of optical diagnostics for bladder cancer: technology, diagnostic accuracy, and future applications. EUR UROL 2009;56 (2):287-296 [PubMed]
All Publications
Research programmes

Prof. dr. A.G.J.M. van Leeuwen MSc PhD (Biomedical photonics for functional and molecular imaging)

Other research related activities
  • Membership of medical or scientific committee, SPIE, prog. comm. "Biomedical Applications of Light Scattering"
  • Membership of medical or scientific committee, ECBO, prog. comm. " Novel Biophotonic Techniques and Applications"
Current research funding
  • Life Sciences Health TKI
  • SURFnet bv
  • Technologiestichting STW