JUL 13, 2021 7:00 AM PDT

Friend or Foe? New Cancer-Tracking Pen Guides Surgeons.

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Researchers have developed the first diagnostic “pen” that acts as a guide for surgeons, helping them distinguish cancerous tissues from healthy ones in real-time. This technology, named the MasSpec Pen, is over 100 times faster than current methodologies for checking whether surgeons have successfully removed all the malignant tissues, giving patients the best chances of positive outcomes.

University of Texas at Austin researcher, Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, who led the team of innovators that created the MasSpec Pen said: “These results show the technology works in the clinic for surgical guidance,” adding that it’s easy to integrate the use of the Pen into existing surgical workflows.

Surgeons walk a fine line when it comes to removing cancerous tissues in critical organs such as the pancreas—cutting out too much of the organ can compromise patients’ health, while not removing the tumor entirely opens up the risk of relapse.

To develop the MasSpec Pen, Eberlin and colleagues performed tissue analyses in over 150 human pancreatic tissues in biobanks. They then validated the device in over 150 cancer surgery procedures.

“Surgery of the pancreas is a very complex and detailed surgery that requires numerous intraoperative decisions over several hours that can have long-lasting effects on oncologic outcomes for patients with pancreas cancer,” explained George Van Buren, a surgeon and researcher who performed the validation experiments detailed in the study.

“The MasSpec Pen technology opens the door for real-time, precision medicine to be performed in the operating room at a level that has never been seen before.”

This groundbreaking new medical technology could be the light at the end of the tunnel for patients diagnosed with certain types of pancreatic cancer such as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, which are aggressive, spread rapidly, and are associated with poor survival rates.

 

 

Sources: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UT News.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
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