In what is being considered both revolutionary and miraculous, researchers at the University of Texas say there is a new device with the capability of detecting cancer cells at a rate that is 150 times faster than existing technology.
The device, called the MasSpec Pen, is a small pen that gives surgeons a much better chance of removing cancerous cells by allowing them to test for the presence of the disease in seconds.
Surgeons are finding the “pen” is able to give them results in just 10 seconds, compared to taking up to half an hour, previously. According to researchers at the Univ. of Texas, this is 150 times faster than existing technology. That is valuable time since the patient is usually under anesthesia and on the operating table, leaving them more susceptible to infection.
It’s important to note that the device gives surgeons a better chance of removing “every last trace” of the disease by telling them which tissues to cut or preserve, thus, improving the odds of a complete recovery, free from reoccurrence.
“If you talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the first things many will say is, ‘I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out,’” according to Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry who designed the study.
Eberlin continued, by stating, “It’s just heartbreaking when that’s not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds that surgeons really do remove every last trace of cancer during surgery.”
A current method used for detection is frozen section analysis, which can be slow and unreliable. Tumors will regrow if all the cancerous tissue is not removed. However, by removing too much healthy tissue, the patient can have nerve damage or loss of speech, such as is the case in thyroid procedures.
Touting this new technology, James Suliburk, the head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, said, “Anytime we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do.”
Suliburk enthusiastically explained, “This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind.”
The pen works by placing a small droplet of water onto the affected tissue, then soaking the water up and analyzing it for fat, proteins, and sugars. The results are then depicted on a computer screen.
It is hoped that the breakthrough device will begin testing during cancer surgeries starting as early as next year.
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