Researchers have developed an intelligent surgical knife that can help doctors identify if a tissue being cut is of cancerous nature or not, in turn enabling an accurate surgery.
The knife, created by London’s Imperial College researchers, would enable doctors to reduce the additional operations in order to remove tumors of cancerous nature.
Usually, during surgical procedures it is difficult to identify where the tumors end and the good tissue begins and in this dilemma, several times, some cancer cells are left behind, in turn making at least one fifth of breast cancer patients to undergo a second surgery even after undergoing lumpectomy operation.
The iKnife is based on electrosurgery, a technology developed in the 1920s and is widely used now. Using electrical current, the electrosurgical knives quickly heat the tissues, slicing through it while reducing the loss of blood loss.
By heating the tissue, they vaporise it, creating smoke which is sucked away by extraction systems.
The Imperial College London’s researcher Dr Zoltan Takats, the inventor of this knife, found that this smoke could be a rich source of biological information.
In order to design the iKnife, Takats linked an electrosurgical knife to a mass spectrometer, an instrument to detect what kind of chemicals are present in a sample.
Different cells generate different metabolites in various concentrations and hence the chemical profile can indicate the information about the state of that tissue.
In the initial study, the iKnife diagnosed tissue samples of 91 patients and recorded 100% accuracy.
Takats now aims to test the iKnife in a study involving between 1,000 and 1,500 patients with different kinds of cancers and this study could take two or three years, following which the device would be submitted for regulatory permission.