Surgical 'Smart Knife' Quickly Detects Cancer

| by Michael Allen
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Dr. Zoltan Takats, of the Imperial College London, has created an experimental surgical knife that tells surgeons if they are removing cancerous or non-cancerous tissue.

When cancer surgeons operate, they usually use surgical knives that actually heat human tissue, which results in an odd-smelling smoke.

According to the Associated Press, Dr. Takats' "smart knife" evaluates the smoke to let doctors know if the cancer has been removed, which is much faster than sending human tissue to a lab to be checked for cancer cells, a technique that can take up to 30 minutes.

The smart knife contains numerous smoke "signatures" from cancerous and non-cancerous tissues. A monitor signals green if the tissue is healthy and red if it is cancerous. There is a yellow color in case the smart knife cannot determine the tissue.

"Brain cancers are notorious for infiltrating into healthy brain tissue beyond what's visible to the surgeon," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, of the American Cancer Society. "If this can definitively tell doctors whether they've removed all the cancerous tissue, it would be very valuable."

"This is a fascinating science and we need to adopt any technology that works to save patients, but first we have to be sure that it works."

Researchers removed tissues from 302 cancer patients at three hospitals between 2010 and 2012 and created a database of different types of smoke associated with various kinds of cancer.

The database was used with the smart knife on 91 new patients and found the right type of cancer in every patient.

The  research was published in the Science Translational Medicine and paid for by the Imperial College London in England and the Hungarian government.

Both England and Hungary have socialized health care, which is often demonized in the U.S.

Source: Associated Press