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article imageHandheld digital probe aids cancer screening

By Tim Sandle     Aug 1, 2017 in Science
Montreal - A new device, devices by Canadian technologists, can help patients with common forms of cancer survive for longer and with a reduced risk of recurrence. The device is a multimodal optical spectroscopy probe.
he device, an intraoperative probe that reliably detects multiple types of tumor cells, has been devised by scientists from the Polytechnique Montréal. The device has been tested out at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM) and the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), with reported success.
The device is intended to be used for screening for brain cancer cells and cancers associated with the colon, lung and skin. The aim is to do so with improved accuracy, sensitivity and specificity over conventional technologies.
Based on intraoperative trials, the multimodal optical spectroscopy probe detected cancer cells with close to 100 percent sensitivity. An optical spectrometer is an instrument used to measure properties of light over a specific portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, typically used in spectroscopic analysis to identify materials. Spectroscopy, as a scientific field, is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation.
The probe also applies intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy to interpret the metabolic composition of the cells, plus diffuse reflectance spectroscopy to analyze intrinsic tissue absorption in patients.
The device was the brainchild of an engineer called Frédéric Leblond and neurosurgical oncology specialist, Dr. Kevin Petrecca. In a research note, Dr. Petrecca says: “Minimizing, or completely eliminating, the number of cancer cells during surgery is a critical part of cancer treatment, yet detecting cancer cells during surgery is challenging.”
The researcher goes on to state: “Often it is impossible to visually distinguish cancer from normal brain, so invasive brain cancer cells frequently remain after surgery, leading to cancer recurrence and a worse prognosis. Surgically minimizing the number of cancer cells improves patient outcomes."
The probe enables detection of cancer cells in the body, with the aim of helping surgeons to remove cancerous tissues or for medics to direct chemotherapy treatments. The digitally enabled visual accuracy is far greater than any conventional probe that relies on a surgeon to detect tissue of concern.
Initial tests were conducted on some 80 patients during surgery. A more in-depth clinical trial is currently under way. The device and its application has been reported to the journal Cancer Research. The science paper is titled “Highly Accurate Detection of Cancer In Situ with Intraoperative, Label-Free, Multimodal Optical Spectroscopy.”
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