According to the scientists who created it, a small microscope that can be maneuvered around small spaces inside the body during surgery could speed up the treatment of breast cancer.
Experts at Imperial College London have developed an endo-microscope less than 1mm in diameter, about the width of 25 human hairs, and designed to be inserted into the body to provide views of tissues and organs.
The device was able to produce images of the interior of tissue with “unprecedented speed”, the team said.
The hope is that the endo-microscope – developed by Dr Khushi Vyas and his college colleagues – will help surgeons identify cancer cells by a hundredth of a millimeter at a much faster rate than traditional methods.
This would help reduce the need for follow-up operations to eliminate cancer cells that previously escaped detection, the team said.
The instrument would also help with breast-conserving surgery, where the surgeon removes the cancer while leaving as much normal breast as possible.
Up to 20% of patients undergoing breast-conserving surgery currently require such operations.
The researchers said the device could also help reduce waiting lists for the UK’s National Health Service.
Using the device would help surgeons very quickly and accurately identify suspicious tissue around tumors, with the endo-microscope generating up to 120 images per second, they said.
Development of the device is supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.
Council Director for Inter-Council Programs Dr Kedar Pandya said: “By reducing the time needed to identify cancer cells and improving imaging accuracy, the endo-microscope developed by Dr Vyas and his team could benefit patients and the NHS by reducing waiting lists.
Dr. Khushi Vyas added, “Our goal is to conduct clinical trials with a view to making the system available for deployment in approximately five years.”
The researchers have used their system for preliminary studies on human cancerous tissue and are testing its use by surgeons and pathologists on laboratory samples of cancerous tissue.
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