Fibre optics help in cancer

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The Independent Online
A PROBE that can measure the exact amount of oxygen in a tumour helping to target treatment where it is needed is to be tested to see if it can improve the outcome in a range of cancers.

The fibreoptic probe, similar to a single strand of a fibre optic light, lights up when inserted into tissue containing oxygen. Oxygen levels are critical because they affect the way that cancer responds to chemotherapy and radiotherapy - the lower the level of oxygen the harder the tumour is to destroy.

Early research on the device, developed at the Cancer Research Campaign's Gray Laboratories in Northwood, Middlesex, shows that it is better than existing methods of assessing oxygen levels.

Dr Borivoj Vojnovic, the probe's inventor, said: "By knowing a tumour's oxygen levels, doctors can tailor chemotherapy and radiotherapy to individuals making their treatment more effective. I am also convinced that there are countless other applications for the device, many of which we haven't yet thought of."

Scientists believe that the device, called the Oxylite system, has potential applications in plastic surgery, the care of head injuries, shock monitoring and cardiology.

Professor Gordon McVie, director of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "If the patient trials for the device are successful, I would hope that one day a type of oxygen sensor will be routinely used in cancer treatment. By being able to customise treatment to individual patients it would mean more effective treatment for cancer patients and in some cases less side- effects."