Cancer surgery: Tumour ‘sniffing’ surgical knife designed
An “intelligent” knife which can sniff out tumours to enhance cancer surgery was developed by scientists.
The Imperial College London team hope to triumph over the damaging and customary problem of leaving bits of the tumour in a patient, which may then regrow.
Early results, within the journal Science Translational Medicine, showed the “iKnife” could accurately identify cancerous tissue prompt.
It is now being tested in clinical trials to determine if it saves lives.
To avoid leaving cancerous tissue behind, surgeons also remove surrounding tissue.
They may send samples off for testing while the patient remains in theatre, but this takes time.
Yet one in five patients who’ve a breast lump removed still want a second operation to clear their tumour. For lung cancer the figure is set one in 10.
The team at Imperial College London modified a surgical knife that uses heat to chop through tissue.
It is already utilized in hospitals around the globe, however the surgeons can now analyse the smoke given off when the new blade burns through tissue.
The smoke is sucked right into a hi-tech “nose” called a mass spectrometer. It detects the sophisticated differences between the smoke of cancerous and healthy tissue.
This information is accessible to the surgeon within seconds.
Tests on 91 patients showed that the knife could accurately tell what sort of tissue it was cutting and if it was cancerous.
Dr Zoltan Takats, who invented the system at Imperial, said: “These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife could be applied in a variety of cancer surgery procedures.
“It provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to hold out procedures with a degree of accuracy that hasn’t been possible before.
“We believe it has the prospective to lessen tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to outlive.”
Trials at the moment are occurring at three hospitals in London – St Mary’s, Hammersmith and Charing Cross.
Prof Jeremy Nicholson, head of the dep. of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, said: “This can be a part of what we call precision medicine, we’re attempting to change the realm by very aggressively translating scientific discovery in to the NHS.”
Surgeon Dr Emma King, of Cancer Research UK, said: “The iKnife is a thrilling development to lead cancer surgeons during operations.
“If its usefulness is supported in further clinical trials, it can potentially reduce the time spent in theatre for lots of patients.”