This 'Pen' Can Be Used To Test Tissue For Cancer

This 'Pen' Can Be Used To Test Tissue For Cancer

A newly designed "pen" device can detect cancer cells within a matter of seconds to help surgeons more fully remove tumors, according to an NBC News report.

A team from the University of Texas at Austin has created a tool that rapidly and accurately delivers cancer results in about 10 seconds-more than 150 times faster than existing tools.

They also detected cancer in marginal regions between normal and cancerous tissues that presented mixed cellular composition.

In particular, cancers such as those of the breast, pancreas and brain "tend to invade surrounding normal tissue", Eberlin said.

The team "trained" this software to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous molecular fingerprints by feeding it data from hundreds of healthy and cancerous human tissue samples, including tissue from the lung, breast, and ovary.

When tested on 253 tissue samples from healthy patients and patients with cancer, the device took around 10 seconds to identify cancerous tissue, and it yielded 96.3 percent accuracy, 96.2 percent specificity, and 96.4 percent sensitivity.

How does the MasSpec Pen work?

Physicians can operate the disposable handheld device easily.

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"Unfortunately, this leads to the possibility of additional surgery and/or additional treatments", Deutsch said.

Surgeons can hold the pen against the patient's tissue and trigger the automated analysis with a foot pedal. Meanwhile, the pen releases a drop of water onto the tissue, and small molecules migrate into the water. Once chemicals inside the living cells get into the water droplets, they are sucked up by the pen for analysis. The mass spectrometer is a very powerful analytical technique that measures and identifies molecules and generates a molecular profile or a molecular 'fingerprint.' This fingerprint is evaluated by a statistical classifier that provides a predictive diagnosis with an associated probability.

The device can even determine different types and even subtypes of cancer, since each cancer produces a unique set of biomarkers that act as its molecular "fingerprints", the researchers added.

They hope to start testing the device in surgical procedures early next year, but it likely will be several years before the pen would be available on the market, Eberlin said. The pen may help doctors ensure that none of the cancer is left.

"The ability to more accurately evaluate the margins in stomach, bile duct, pancreatic and colon cancers could be even more impactful, as the margins in these tumors are notoriously hard to confirm", Deutsch said.

Plus, the use of mass spectrometry to diagnose cancer is itself still highly experimental.

Laboratory tests, results of which were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, revealed that that the probe is accurate 96 percent of the time.

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