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Imaging Tech Could 'Revolutionize' Cancer Treatment


The tool locates edges of tumors during surgery to remove them.

imaging technology

Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of University of Waterloo.

A new imaging technology that locates the edges of tumors during surgery to remove them could improve cancer treatment, researchers at the University of Waterloo found.

The technology sends laser light pulses into targeted tissue. The tissue absorbs the pulses, heats up, expands and produces soundwaves. Another laser reads the soundwaves, which then get processed to determine whether the tissue is cancerous.

This method distinguishes between cancerous and healthy tissue in real-time with no physical contact, which researchers say could eliminate the need for secondary surgeries to remove missed malignant tissue.

“This is the future, a huge step towards our ultimate goal of revolutionizing surgical oncology,” said Parsin Haji Reza, Ph.D., a professor of systems design engineering at the University of Waterloo in Canada. “Intraoperatively, during surgery, the surgeon will be able to see exactly what to cut and how much to cut.”

Current practice relies on pre-operation MRI images and CT scans, experience and visual inspection to determine margins of tumors during operations. But in nearly 10% of cases, some cancerous tissue is missed, and a second surgery is needed to remove it.

Researchers report that the system has been used to make accurate images of thick, untreated human tissue samples of breast cancer, tonsil, gastrointestinal and pancreatic tissue.

Next, the research team wants to image fresh tissue samples taken during operations, integrate the technology into a surgical microscope and use the system directly on patients during operations.

“This will have a tremendous impact on the economics of healthcare, be amazing for patients and give clinicians a great new tool,” Haji Reza said. “It will save a great deal of time and money and anxiety.”

The research can be found in the journal Scientfic Reports.

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