In the fight against the deadly cancer, European researchers have designed a knife that can “sniff” and determine whether the tumor is malignant or benign…within seconds.

The ‘intelligent’ surgical knife built by researchers at London’s Imperial College, cleverly marks the edges of tumors, thus impairing the chances of cancer cells being left behind.

How the device works
The device uses the pungent smoke emitted during tissue cuts and cauterizing wounds.

The smoke normally considered to be nothing more than toxic irritants proved to be a “rich source of biological information,” lead scientist Julia Balog marked.
Researchers found that an analysis of the chemicals emitted in the smoke can indicate whether a tumor is cancerous or not.

The “iKnife” uses sensors to analyze the smoke emitted from cauterized cuts and compared the data with a database of 3000 tissue samples from about 300 cancer patients’ surgeries.

The iKnife could also effectively distinguish between normal and tumor tissues from different organs, such as breast, liver, and brain. It can also identify the origin of a metastasis tumor, a secondary growth seeded by a primary tumor elsewhere in the body.

Furthermore, the iKnife can do the needful in just few seconds as against the currently available methods that take between 20 and 30 minutes, reducing operating time and risk of potential complications significantly.

Human trails
To check the efficacy of the device, the researchers used it in 81 actual cancer surgeries.
With only a 1-3 seconds turn-around-time, the iKnife presensted its findings.

Interestingly, the results matched pathology lab results after the surgery for cancerous and normal tissues for nearly all patients, researchers highlighted.

“The iKnife is cool because it is uses a byproduct of surgery,” says biomedical engineer Nimmi Ramanujam of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who relies on optical imaging to mark tumor edges in tissues. “The edge of a tumor is more challenging to detect than cancer versus healthy tissue due to a mix of different tissue types, and it is the edge that surgeons want to know about,” Ramanujam says.

The findings of the study are reported online in Science Translational Medicine.

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