The scalpel that “knows” when it’s cutting into cancer

So here is an interesting tale of a clinical development that could, perhaps, be truly revolutionary for surgeons … if the actual implementation is as good as the early results.

According to a story on the Medscape web site, a research team working in England and Hungary has developed an “intelligent” electrosurgical scalpel (which they have dubbed the “iKnife”) that integrates electrosurgery with a form of mass spectrometry to be able to carry out very rapid analysis of the precise type of tissue that the knife is cutting through. (Click here for the abstract of the original paper by Balog et al. in Science Translational Medicine.)

Let us be clear that, as yet, this technology has only been used on about 90 patients, as far as we can tell from the available information, and there is no specific statement that it has been used yet in the surgical treatment of prostate cancer. However, it will be interesting to see if this technology does come to market in the next few years.

Certainly the theoretical potential is considerable, and the system developed really does seem to be able to discriminate between cancerous and non-cancerous tissues with a very high degree of accuracy. Furthermore, such a system would certainly allow a skilled urologist to be able to minimize the need to remove non-cancerous tissue within and around the prostate and to maximize the probability of removing cancerous tissue without leaving positive surgical margins.

3 Responses

  1. Wow. … Finally, a possible actual advance to the barbarity of cancer surgery. …

  2. Here is a link to another article on this technology.

  3. I now believe all those research article about dogs being able to smell cancer.

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