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New ‘Intelligent Knife’ Detects Cancer Cells Only

Update Date: Jul 18, 2013 09:36 AM EDT

Although surgeons perform invasive surgeries almost everyday, the procedure never gets any easier. When it comes to removing cancerous cells, there is a possibility that the surgeons will touch healthy tissue and remove them along with the tumor. Now, that possibility could potentially be lowered as scientists report that they have created an 'intelligent knife' that has the ability to inform the surgeons which tissues are cancerous and which ones are not. This new item, the 'iKnife' could potentially guide surgeons into making better cuts when they are removing the mass.

The iKnife was created with the hopes of increasing the success rates of surgery for cancer patients. Since surgeons cannot tell the different between healthy and unhealthy cells by sight, some cancer patients are forced to undergo a second surgery due to the fact that some cancer cells were left behind. More surgeries can increase one's risk of complications, such as infections. In the first trial study, scientists used the iKnife to identify tissue samples. The iKnife was able to diagnose the tissues from 91 patients with 100 percent accuracy.

The creator of the iKnife, Dr. Zoltan Takats from the Imperial College London based the product on electrosurgery technology, which was first invented in the 1920s. These types of products use electrical currents to heat up the tissues, which then allow for easy cutting with minimal blood loss. The iKnife was made from an electrosurgical knife and a mass spectrometer. The spectrometer is capable of analyzing the chemicals that are present in the tissue. The researchers then used the iKnife on 302 patients, collecting information on thousands of healthy and unhealthy tissues found in the brain, lung, breast, stomach, colon and liver. The iKnife works by matching the current tissue sample it touches to the ones already in its data library, giving results to surgeons in less than three seconds.

"These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures," Takats said according to the press release. "It provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn't been possible before. We believe it has the potential to reduce tumor recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive."

The iKnife is currently undergoing clinical trials before it can be deemed safe to use in surgeries. The results were published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine. 

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