Better definition of tumour margins for surgeons in real time

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  • Published: Jan 21, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Chemometrics & Informatics / Atomic / Base Peak / Infrared Spectroscopy / Raman / UV/Vis Spectroscopy / X-ray Spectrometry / Proteomics / MRI Spectroscopy / NMR Knowledge Base

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US scientists have devised a way to highlight tumours during surgery using a dye that fluoresces under irradiation from a handheld laser. It means that surgeons can locate exactly a tumour before surgery and check afterwards whether there is any cancerous tissue that has been overlooked around the margins.

Should it progress to a commercial system, it would compete with the iKnife, a system which uses onsite mass spectrometry in real time to analyse the smoke emitted by tissue during electrosurgery, a technique that minimises blood loss. Both of them operate in real time during a surgical operation but the iKnife does not require any pre-treatment of the patient.

The fluorescent system relies on the injection of a dye into the patient. All types of tissue appear to absorb it but, for some reason, cancerous cells accumulate higher levels of the dye and this shows up under irradiation. So, the surgeon can keep on irradiating and examining the image on a screen to ensure that all of the tumour has been cut out.

The design is explained in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering. "Being able to quickly scan a tumor during surgery to visualize tumor tissue from non-tumor tissue is an unmet clinical need," said Aaron Mohs, one of the scientists working on the project. "Pathology techniques that examine tumor tissue during surgery can take up to 20 minutes and they focus on the tissue removed during surgery, not the tissue that remains in the body."  

Indocyanine green dye was used in the prototype system but future studies will look for higher performance fluorescent dyes and nanoparticles that can be targeted to specific tumours.

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