Patients with common widespread forms of cancer will enjoy longer life expectancy and reduced risk of recurrence thanks to a multimodal optical spectroscopy probe developed by Canadian researchers.
In 2015, scientists at Polytechnique Montréal, the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM), the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University, and the MUHC developed a hand-held Raman spectroscopy probe allowing surgeons to accurately detect virtually all brain cancer cells in real time during surgery.
The research team has now perfected the invention and designed a new device with improved accuracy, sensitivity and specificity, capable of detecting not only brain cancer cells but colon, lung and skin cancer cells as well. In intraoperative testing, the multimodal optical spectroscopy probe detected cancer cells infallibly, with nearly 100 per cent sensitivity–in other words, when pointed at a cancerous region, the probe is never wrong.
This breakthrough, details of which were published on June 28 in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Research, is the outcome of collaborative efforts between engineer Frédéric Leblond and neurosurgical oncology specialist Dr. Kevin Petrecca.
“Minimizing, or completely eliminating, the number of cancer cells during surgery is a critical part of cancer treatment, yet detecting cancer cells during surgery is challenging,” explains Dr. Petrecca, who is Chief of Neurosurgery, a brain cancer researcher, and holder of the William Feindel Chair in Neuro-Oncology at the Neuro. “Often it is impossible to visually distinguish cancer from normal brain, so invasive brain cancer cells frequently remain after surgery, leading to cancer recurrence and a worse prognosis. Surgically minimizing the number of cancer cells improves patient outcomes.”
Dr. Frédéric Leblond, Professor of Engineering Physics at Polytechnique Montréal and a research fellow at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM), notes: “The probe we’ve designed enables detection of nearly 100 per cent of cancer cells in the brain. This is a very important advance. We’ve also been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of our technology in treating other forms of cancer. This means that more patients will benefit from better diagnosis, more effective treatment, and lower risk of recurrence.”
The major advantage of this system is that surgeons can use it during a procedure to detect cancer cells in real time–a determination that is difficult to make via naked-eye observation.
“A technology with extremely high accuracy is necessary, since surgeons will be using this information to help determine if tissues contain cancer cells or not. An important feature of this device is its broad applicability. We found that it effectively detects multiple cancer types, including brain, lung, colon, and skin cancers,” Dr. Petrecca concludes.
Image Credit: Frédéric Leblond, Kevin Petrecca