To treat a cancer locally, surgery is the oldest method however this technique has evolved a lot.
New processes have been developed such as: electrosurgery, consisting of destroying cancer cells by subjecting them to an electric current of high frequency; cryosurgery, consisting in exposing cells to extremely cold temperatures to destroy them; laser surgery to destroy cells by means of a laser beam […]
In every case, the purpose of the surgery is to remove the entirety of the cancer cells. This is a difficult task as the surgeon can only rely on his vision. That’s why in 20 to 50% of the cases, the patients suffer from a second recurrence because all the cancer cells were not removed.
The usual method to assist surgeon in this work is to remove tissues and to proceed to a biopsy. A pathologist needs a further thirty minutes to prepare a sample and to determine if it’s cancerous or not. This increases the risk of infection and detrimental effects of anesthesia. Besides, for certain cancers, the interpretation of the sample can be difficult resulting in an error rate of 10 to 20%.
To maximize tumour removal, researchers from Austin University (Texas), have developed the “MasSpec Pen”, a probe able to detect in 10 seconds the presence of cancer cells. The operating principle of MasSpec Pen is based on the extraction of the water molecules contained in these cells.
Ten microlitres are extracted and managed via a tube towards a spectrometer, which analyses the metabolites of these cells to conclude the presence or the absence of cancer. Every cell (cancerous or not) produces metabolites, these molecules are involved in numerous reactions allowing energy exchanges or cell division. When cells are cancerous, their metabolism is disturbed and those molecules are different.
253 cancerous and healthy tissues samples coming from lung, ovary, thyroid and breast tissue were analysed to identify a “molecular profile” allowing the detection of cancer with an accuracy rate of 96%. This probe was tested on living mice and cancer was detected without error and with no damage on the tissues analysed.
This new technology is really promising as surgeons will be more accurate during tumour removal, as they will know precisely which tissue needs to be removed and which one must be preserved. The next step is a clinic trial on humans, scheduled in 2018.
Austin University is not the only player working on portable probe for cancer cells detection as Mac Gill University has also presented a similar device in July 2017: a probe that turns on when it is in contact with cancer cells.
Alexandre, Consultant, Leyton France