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Home News and Update Year 2013 'Smart knife' detects cancer in 3 seconds

'Smart knife' detects cancer in 3 seconds

Scientists have developed the world’s first intelligent knife that tells surgeons in less than three seconds whether the tissue they are cutting is cancerous or not.

British scientists successfully tested the “iKnife” — built on the concept of electro surgery. The technology was invented in the 1920s. Electrosurgical knives use an electrical current to rapidly heat tissue, cutting through it while minimizing blood loss. In doing so, they vaporize the tissue, creating smoke that is sucked away by extraction systems.

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In cancers involving solid tumours, removal of the cancer in surgery is generally the best hope for treatment. The surgeon normally take out the tumour with a margin of healthy tissue. However, it is often impossible to tell by sight which tissue is cancerous.

One in five breast cancer patients who have surgery require a second operation to fully remove the cancer. The iknife can eliminate the need for repeated surgery.

In the first test in the operating theatre, the iKnife diagnosed tissue samples from 91 patients with 100% accuracy, instantly providing information that normally takes up to half an hour to reveal using laboratory tests. The findings, by researchers at Imperial College London was published in Science Translational Medicine.

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The inventor of the iKnife Dr Zoltan Takats of Imperial College London connected an electrosurgical knife to a mass spectrometer, an analytical instrument used to identify what chemicals are present in a sample. Different types of cell produce thousands of metabolites in different concentrations, so the profile of chemicals in a sample can reveal information about the state of that tissue.

The researchers first used the iKnife to analyse tissue samples collected from 302 surgery patients, recording the characteristics of thousands of cancerous and noncancerous tissues to create a reference library. The iKnife works by matching its readings during surgery to the reference library to determine what type of tissue is being cut, giving a result in less than three seconds.


Source :
Times of India
19 July 2013, London

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