A team of scientists and engineers from the University of Texas at Austin, USA UU.) has invented a powerful tool that quickly and accurately identifies cancer tissue during surgery, achieving results in about 10 seconds, more than 150 times faster than current technology.
The device, called MasSpec, represents an innovative hand tool similar to a pen, which provides surgeons with accurate diagnostic information about which tissue to cut or preserve, helping to improve treatment and reduce the chances of cancer recurrence.
“Our technology could greatly improve the chances that surgeons will eliminate any trace of cancer during surgery,” explains Livia Schiavinate Eberlin, co-author of the work.
The current method of diagnosing cancers and determining the boundary between cancer and normal tissue during surgery is slow and sometimes inaccurate. The analysis of each sample may take about 30 minutes, which increases the patient’s risk of infection and the negative effects of anesthesia.
MasSpec Pen: fast and accurate
In the tests on tissues taken from 253 patients with cancer, the pencil MasSpec it took about 10 seconds to provide a diagnosis with an accuracy of 96%, including marginal areas between normal tissues and tissues with cellular composition mixed.
“Every time we can offer the patient more precise surgery, faster surgery or safer surgery, it’s something we want to do.. This technology does all three things, because it allows us to be much more precise about which tissue we remove and what we leave behind,” explains James Suliburk, co-author of the study.
Removing too much healthy tissue can also have profound negative consequences for patients, such as an increased risk of painful side effects and nerve damage, in addition to aesthetic impacts (such as breast cancer).
How it works
Living cells, whether healthy or cancerous, produce small molecules called metabolites. These molecules are involved in many important processes such as energy generation, growth and reproduction, as well as other useful functions such as the elimination of toxins. Each type of cancer produces a unique set of metabolites and other biomarkers that act as fingerprints.
“Because the metabolites in cancer and normal cells are so different, we extract them and analyze them with the MasSpec Pen to obtain a molecular fingerprint of the tissue.”explained Eberlin.
The molecular footprint obtained by MasSpec is evaluated instantly by a software, called a statistical classifier, trained in a database of molecular footprints that include normal and cancerous tissues of the breast, lung, thyroid, and ovary.
When the MasSpec Pen completes the analysis, the computer shows the words “Normal”or ” cancer”. As simple as that. Experts believe that for certain types of cancer, the name of the subtype may also appear.
The effectiveness of the device is incontestable. In tests carried out on human samples, the certainty of the device was more than 96% for the diagnosis of cancer and without causing any observable damage in tissues or at the level of stress (in rodent experiments).