'Intelligent knife' tells surgeon if tissue is cancerous

18 July 2013

Scientists have developed an intelligent knife or 'iKnife' that lets surgeons know instantly if the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not.

The tool consists of an electrosurgical knife - which uses an electrical current to heat tissue - connected to an analytical instrument that identifies chemicals present in the smoke that is created when the tissue is vaporised.

This chemical profile can be used to assess the condition of the tissue - including whether or not cancer cells are present - with the results available instantly, as opposed to within 30 minutes using existing lab techniques.

Tests performed with the iKnife and published in the journal Science Translational Medicine correctly diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100 per cent accuracy.

"These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures," said Dr Zoltan Takats, the Imperial College London researcher who invented the tool.

He added that the device "has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive".

Posted by Edward Bartel


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