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New high-tech glasses allow surgeons to 'see' cancer

Friday, February 21, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: cancer, high-tech glasses, surgeons

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(NaturalNews) New high-tech glasses developed by an American company give surgeons the ability to locate hard-to-find and hard-to-see cancer cells during surgery, thereby reducing the need for follow-up operations.

A report in PharmaTimes said that the spectacles, developed at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, could help surgeons visualize cancer cells, which appear blue to surgeons who sport the eyewear.

The glasses give surgeons a unique ability to distinguish diseased cells from normal ones, which helps ensure that no stray cancerous growth remains in the body during surgery, the health website reported. The university said the technology is so new that the glasses have yet to be named.

'Imagine what this could mean'

Breast surgeon Julie Margenthaler of Washington University said that researchers are "in the early stages of this technology, and more development and testing will be done, but we're certainly encouraged by the potential benefits to patients."

"Imagine what it would mean if these glasses eliminated the need for follow-up surgery and the associated pain, inconvenience and anxiety," she added.

Under current care standards, surgeons work to remove cancerous tumors as well as some surrounding tissue that may or may not contain cancerous cells. Margenthaler said that, for example, about 20-25 percent of breast cancer patients who have lumpectomies required a second surgery because of missed cancerous materials, despite current acceptable practices of removing some surrounding tissue.

"Our hope is that this new technology will reduce or ideally eliminate the need for a second surgery," Margenthaler said.

The glasses work in conjunction with custom video technology -- a head-mounted display and a commonly used targeted molecular agent (called indocyanine green) that attaches itself to cancerous cells.

In a study published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, scientists wrote that tumors as small as 1 millimeter in diameter could be detected using the new glasses and procedure. Currently, the university is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval for a different molecular agent that specifically targets cancer cells and remains attached to them longer.

The technology was developed by a team led by Samuel Achilefu, PhD, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Washington University.

Technique could eventually be used for all types of cancer

Ryan Fields, MD, a Washington University assistant professor of surgery and surgeon at the Siteman Cancer Center -- which is affiliated with the university as well as Barnes-Jewish Hospital, which is also located near St. Louis -- said he plans to wear the glasses later this month when he operates to remove a melanoma from a patient. He added that he welcomes use of the new technology, which could eventually be adapted to visualize any type of cancer.

"A limitation of surgery is that it's not always clear to the naked eye the distinction between normal tissue and cancerous tissue," Fields said. "With the glasses developed by Dr. Achilefu, we can better identify the tissue that must be removed."

Early pilot studies involved laboratory mice, the university said.

"This technology has great potential for patients and health-care professionals," Achilefu said. "Our goal is to make sure no cancer is left behind."






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