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Surgical ‘smart’ knife detects womb cancer ‘in seconds’, study finds


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A surgical smart knife that may detect when it cuts through cancerous tissue has been shown by scientists to “reliably” diagnose womb cancer “inside seconds”.

The research, published within the journal Cancers, is predicted to minimise the present delays for ladies once they await diagnosis for womb cancer following the evaluation of their tissue samples in labs.

The device, iKnife, has been shown in previous studies to be a revolutionary tool within the diagnosis of various cancers that may indicate exactly which tissue to remove from a patient, reducing surgery time and the necessity for repeated operations.

Previous studies have shown that the intelligent “smart” knife – a variety of electrosurgical knife used to chop and cauterise blood vessels – can appropriately discover different tissue types including lung, colon, and liver.

Research has demonstrated that the iKnife works by sucking the smoke during cauterisation right into a mass spectrometer – a tool that reads the chemical signatures and indicates whether the cut tissue is cancerous or healthy.

“The iKnife is an emerging tool which uses standard electrosurgical methods to generate surgical aerosols which might be then interrogated by a mass spectrometer to offer real-time tissue signatures,” scientists, including those from Imperial College London, explained within the study.

In the brand new research, scientists sought to find out whether the iKnife can appropriately discover endometrial cancer from biopsy samples.

Endometrial cancer is a standard gynaecological cancer with over 120,000 latest cases diagnosed per 12 months within the European Union alone, scientists say.

Researchers assessed about 150 endometrial samples on this study and located that the smart knife “reliably” diagnosed endometrial cancer in seconds, with a diagnostic accuracy of about 90 per cent.

“These results are highly encouraging and suggest that the iKnife might be utilized in the clinic to offer some extent of care diagnosis,” scientists noted, adding that the surgical tool can pave the way in which for “latest diagnostic pathways”.

Until now, researchers say, tissue sample evaluation for diagnosis of womb cancer may “take as much as two weeks” with delays in treatment and definitive surgery shown to negatively impact survival probabilities.

With the iKnife – which has been shown to “accurately discriminate” between normal and cancerous tissue across various tumours, including in colon, breast, cervical and ovarian tissues – researchers say a rapid point of care diagnosis method for endometrial cancer will be developed.

They are saying the smart knife technology “has the potential to expedite the patient pathway, providing point-of-care diagnosis for ladies with suspected endometrial cancer.”

“It accurately distinguishes normal from malignant endometrial tissue based on differences of their lipidomic profiles. Further larger studies are needed to validate this method and improve its diagnostic performance,” scientists added.

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