Scientists are reporting development and successful initial testing of a new tool that tells whether brain tissue is normal or cancerous while an operation is underway, so that surgeons can remove more of the tumor without removing healthy tissue, improving patients' survival. The report appears in ACS' journal Analytical Chemistry.
Zoltán Takáts and colleagues point out that cancer can recur if tumor cells remain in the body after surgery. As a precaution, surgeons typically remove extra tissue surrounding a breast, prostate and other tumors in the body. But neurosurgeons face severe limitations because removing extra tissue can impair the patient's memory, mobility and other vital functions. Neurosurgeons thus strive to precisely identify the tumor margins during brain surgery. Current methods take too long and are unreliable. To overcome these challenges, the researchers developed a new tool that can identify the margin between cancerous and healthy tissue in half the time previously needed.
They describe linking a mainstay surgical tool termed an ultrasonic aspirator — used to break up and suction tissue — to a modified version of a standard laboratory tool called a mass spectrometer. Their tests proved successful on human brain samples. "Besides brain surgery, the method has application potential in the surgery of organs including liver, pancreas or kidney," say the researchers.