In an exciting development towards more accurate cancer surgery and tumour diagnosis, a surgical knife that tells the difference between healthy and cancerous tissue is being trialled in the UK.
Surgeons from the Imperial College London have used this incredible piece of technology (called the iKnife) to analyse the vapour that is given off when electrical currents cut away tissue during surgery.
The tool uses mass spectrometry to identify chemicals present in the tissue and then it reports, within 3 seconds, what the target tissue contains.
During pre-clinical testing the knife was used on samples from more than 300 patients with cancers including lung, breast and liver tumours, showing it can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures.
The knife was then used during 91 actual patient surgeries, with surgeons being able to diagnose tissue samples with 100 per cent accuracy, right there in the operating theatre.
Normally the tissue sample would be sent to a pathology lab for analysis and it would then take 25 – 30 minutes for the results to confirm whether the tissue was cancerous or not.
Creator of the iKnife, Dr Zoltan Takats, from the Imperial College London, says, “[the iKnife] provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn’t been possible before.”
“We believe it has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive,” he said.
Currently, the knife is being trialled at three London hospitals and will be most likely commercially available in the next year.