News

‘Intelligent’ surgical knife can sniff out cancer tissue

‘Intelligent’ surgical knife can sniff out cancer tissue

Julia Balog of Imperial College London demonstrates the Intelligent Knife on a piece of meat at St Mary's Hospital in London July 17, 2013. Photo: Reuters/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists have created an “intelligent” surgical knife that can detect in seconds whether tissue being cut is cancerous, promising more effective and accurate surgery in future.

The device, built by researchers at London’s Imperial College, could allow doctors to cut back on additional operations to remove further pieces of cancerous tumors.

The technology, effectively merging an electrosurgical knife that cuts through tissue using heat with a mass spectrometer for chemical analysis, has also been shown to be able to distinguish beef from horsemeat.

Surgeons often find it impossible to tell by sight where tumors end and healthy tissue begins, so some cancer cells are often left behind. A fifth of breast cancer patients who have lumpectomy surgery need a second operation.

The new “iKnife” is designed to get round the problem by instantly sampling the smoke given off as tissue is cut through using an electric current to see if it is cancerous.

In the first study to test the device in patients, the iKnife diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 percent accuracy, researchers at Imperial College London reported in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.

Currently, removed tissue can be sent for laboratory analysis while the patient remains under general anesthetic – but each test takes around half an hour, while the iKnife provides feedback in less than three seconds.

It does this by analyzing biological information given off from burning tissue and comparing the findings to a database of biological fingerprints from tumors and healthy tissue.

“It’s a really exciting innovation and a very promising technique for all types of surgery,” said Emma King, a head and neck surgeon at Southampton Hospital, England, who was not involved in the research.

Still, she now wants to see how the iKnife performs in a randomized clinical trial.

CLINICAL TRIAL

Zoltan Takats of Imperial College, who invented the device, said he aimed to test it in such a study, involving between 1,000 and 1,500 patients with various types of cancers.

That trial process is likely to take two or three years and only then will the iKnife be submitted for regulatory approval, paving the way for its commercialization.

Takats has founded a Budapest-based company called MediMass to develop the product and he expects to strike a partnership deal with a major medical technology company to bring it to market in North America and Europe.

Hi-tech surgical equipment is being used increasingly in modern hospitals to help surgeons do a better job, most notably with the da Vinci surgical robot from Intuitive Surgical.

The current experimental version of the iKnife cost Takats and colleagues at Imperial around 200,000 pounds ($300,000) to build. Takats said the price would come down once it entered commercial production.

The research was welcomed by health minister Lord Howe, who said it could benefit both patients and the health service by reducing the number of people needing secondary operations for cancer.

The iKnife may also have a place beyond cancer, according to Takats, since it can identify tissue with an inadequate blood supply, as well as types of bacteria present in tissue.

Latest Headlines

in Local

Stephen King to Receive National Medal of Arts

books

Horror writer Stephen King is going to the White House.

in Local

Report: Maine Trooper Fired, Killed Gunman, in Self-Defense

GENERIC COURT LARGE

Attorney General Janet Mills says an investigation concluded a Maine trooper who killed a man last year in Ludlow was justified in using deadly force.

in Local

Forecast: Sun, Cars For Labor Day Weekend in Maine

GENERIC TURNPIKE TOLLBOOTH LARGE

The weekend forecast calls for sun, and heavy traffic, on the Maine Turnpike.

in Local

Maine Dunkin’ Donuts: Free Coffee For ‘Deflategate’ Judge

dunkin_donuts_logo

A Dunkin' Donuts shop is offering free coffee for life to the federal judge who lifted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's suspension.

in Local

Plan for Chinese-Owned Rail Car Factory in Maine Hits Snag

WGAN IMAGE

A plan for a Chinese-owned rail car factory at the site of the former Loring Air Force Base has been delayed because a top company official has been unable to get a visa to come to the U.S. and work on the project.

Tweets

  • 18h
  • 18h
  • 19h
  • 20h
  • 20h
  • 22h
  • 23h