New smart pen can detect cancer in 10 seconds

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A new handheld device developed by the University of Texas is said to be able to detect cancer tissues within 10 seconds.

The “MasSpec Pen” improves the testing process by as much as 150 times and will make the removal of tumours far easier and more accurate.

“If you talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the first things many will say is ‘I hope the surgeon got all the cancer out,’” said Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry at UT Austin who designed the study and led the team.

“It’s just heartbreaking when that’s not the case. But our technology could vastly improve the odds that surgeons really do remove every last trace of cancer during surgery,” Eberlin added on the university’s website.

The test on 253 human cancer patients was said to be 96% accurate. Some of the suffers had lung, breast, thyroid and ovarian cancers.

Every type of cancer has its own molecular structure which is said to like a “fingerprint”. When MasSpec Pen is used it releases a drop of water that is capable of absorbing the molecules.

The tainted water is then place into a machine which is capable of detecting any abnormalities. Known as the mass spectrometer, the machine detects whether any cancer exists.

The results are then given on a computer screen with words of “Normal” or “Cancer” being shown. For cancers such as lung cancer, it is also capable of showing the variation of cancer.

“Any time we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do,” said James Suliburk, head of endocrine surgery at Baylor College of Medicine.

“This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind.”

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