When performing surgery to remove a malignant tumor, a surgeon’s biggest concern is ensuring that the margin is clean, i.e. no cancerous tissue is left behind. This task is particularly difficult because current methods of staining tumors are crude and unreliable, hence it is difficult to visualize tumor margins intraop with a 100% certainty. To solve this problem, a team of researchers is now working on the SpectroPen, a device which they hope will improve survival rates among cancer patients by allowing surgeons to effectively locate and remove cancerous tissue in real time.
The SpectroPen combines a near-infrared laser and a detector to observe fluorescent dyes as well as scattered light from tiny gold particles that have been designed to stick to tumor cells. These particles consist of polymer-coated gold, coupled to a reporter dye and an antibody that sticks to the molecules on the outsides of the tumor cells. Through an effect called surface-enhanced Raman scattering, the gold in the particle greatly amplifies the signal from the reporter dye, allowing the researchers to detect tumors smaller than one millimeter grafted into rodents. The SpectroPen is connected by a fiber optic cable to a spectrometer that can record the fluorescence and Raman signals.
Article abstract at Analytical Chemistry: Hand-held Spectroscopic Device for In Vivo and Intraoperative Tumor Detection: Contrast Enhancement, Detection Sensitivity, and Tissue Penetration
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