Surgical 'smart' knife that detects tumours could curb spread of cancer

 

Kevin Rawlinson
Thursday 18 July 2013 09:43
Comments
A demonstration shows how the iKnife can slice through animal muscle
A demonstration shows how the iKnife can slice through animal muscle

A surgical knife that can detect when it is cutting through cancerous tissue is being tested in hospitals, raising hopes that the spread of cancer left behind after surgery could soon be curbed more successfully.

The device helps surgeons by indicating exactly which tissue to remove from a patient, reducing the need for repeated surgery. During an operation electrosurgical knives are used to cut and cauterise blood vessels. The device works by sucking the smoke this process creates into a mass spectrometer, which indicates whether the cut tissue is cancerous or healthy.

While surgery is often the best hope of a cancer cure, more than 20 per cent of the cancerous tissue may be left behind under current procedures.

“This could be a real game-changer for tumour resection surgery,” said the knife’s inventor, Dr Zoltan Takats, from Imperial College London.

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. A customised version of the “iKnife” is being tested at St Mary’s, Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals in London.

In an early study, the knife identified malignant tissue in cancer patients undergoing surgery with 100 per cent accuracy. Results of the preliminary study, involving 91 patients with cancers, are reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Lord Darzi, Professor of Surgery at Imperial College, said: “In cancer surgery, you want to take out as little healthy tissue as possible, but you have to ensure that you remove all of the cancer.”

A company called Medimass has been set up to develop the device commercially. Dr Takats, one of its founders, said the team hoped to be able to secure a partnership deal with a “big industrial player” to produce and distribute the iKnife.

Modified versions of the device could have a number of non-medical applications, including food testing. “We’ve already shown that it can distinguish between horse meat and beef, and it works on cooked as well as raw meat,” Dr Takats said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in