New tool can ID cancerous tissue in seconds

Scientists and engineers at the University of Texas at Austin developed a handheld tool that can accurately identify cancerous tissues during a surgical procedure in about 10 seconds, according to a study published in Science Translational Medicine.

The tool works by extracting a tissue sample, which software then analyzes to detect metabolites indicative of cancerous cells. The software uses a database of molecular cancer biomarkers based on 253 human tissue samples compiled by researchers.

In tests performed on human samples, the tool displayed a 96 percent accuracy rate in cancer diagnosis. Researchers also used the tool to identify cancer tissues in mice mid-surgery without causing any observable harm to the animals.

"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, PhD, an assistant professor of chemistry at UT Austin who led the research. "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."

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