Scientists have developed a “pen” that can help surgeons, who when it comes to treating cancer, want to get rid of as much cancerous tissue as possible, to identify the cancer cells in 10 seconds. The tool could one day be used during surgeries to quickly determine what tissue needs to be cut in order to completely eliminate tumors.
In the case of breast cancer, for example, the task is particularly delicate, as the surgeon attempts to remove the tumor while preserving the rest of the breast. At this time, surgeons can send tissue samples to a lab for analysis, which can take days, can also be frozen and analyzed during the operation, but that takes 15 to 20 minutes.
MasSpec Pen, which is not yet perfect, is a real-time diagnostic tool created by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. In a new study published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers report that their portable device (which is not yet approved by the FDA) uses small drops of water to analyze human tissue samples with 96% accuracy and expect the pen to be tested in surgeries as early as next year.
“It is a mild and simple chemical process, it is highly specific and highly sensitive. The fact that it is not destructive brings a new approach to the diagnosis of cancer”
Livia Schiavinato Eberlin
Author of the case
University of Austin Texas.
How does the MasSpec Pen work?
It uses 10 microliters of water to extract molecules from a person’s tissue. The set of water molecules is sent through tubes to an instrument that can identify the cancer’s molecular imprint, telling the surgeon if the tissue is healthy or cancerous.