Wednesday 22 October 2014

'Intelligent knife' tells surgeon which tissue is cancerous

A  surgeon demonstrating the iKnife, which can distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue
A surgeon demonstrating the iKnife, which can distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue

An "intelligent" knife that knows when it is cutting through cancerous tissue is being tested in three hospitals.

Experts believe the wand-like device, the first of its kind in the world, will revolutionise cancer treatment by removing uncertainty from surgery.

In an early study, the "iKnife" identified malignant tissue in cancer patients undergoing operations with 100% accuracy.

After more extensive trials it could be approved for general use in operating theatres within three years.

Surgery is often the best hope of a cancer cure, yet even the best surgeons cannot be sure of removing every part of a tumour.

In the case of breast cancer, more than 20% of the cancerous tissue may be left behind.

This can result in a recurrence of disease, or patients having to undergo repeated operations.

The iKnife helps the surgeon by indicating exactly where the cancerous tissue is, and when it has all been removed.

It could allow surgeons to perform riskier operations, and also has the ability to reveal the original site of a cancer that has spread.

As well as potentially improving cancer survival, the device could save thousands of pounds per patient by cutting the cost of lab tests and follow-up operations.

The device is a hi-tech form of "electric scalpel", a tool routinely used by surgeons that uses electricity to sear through membranes and internal organs.

As the knife cuts, smoke from the burned tissue is pumped through a tube into a mass spectrometer, a machine that uses magnetism to produce a chemical "fingerprint" of the atoms fed into it.

The customised version being tested at St Mary's, Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals in London employs a user-friendly "traffic light" display.

Red indicates cancer and green healthy tissue, while yellows shows that a region is still unidentified.

Under normal circumstances, a tissue sample has to be sent away for analysis in the hospital's laboratories, which can still take up to half an hour.

The iKnife's inventor Dr Zoltan Takats, from Imperial College London, said: "The surgeon on the spot has to make a decision on where to cut and what to remove.

"The general solution is intra-operative histology.

Press Association

Also in this Section

Top Stories

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News