Cancer Could be Going Under with New iKnife


Cancer has a new challenger in the form of an intelligent knife, known as the iKnife. Researchers have designed an operating knife that is able to almost instantaneously interpret smoke emitted as the tissue is cut. This enables surgeons to immediately be aware of any cancerous cells that are present in the tissue.

This innovative devise analyzes the emitted smoke when an electrosurgical tool cauterizes tissue. Aiding doctors busy in surgery to establish whether or not tissues being removed are cancerous.

The tool uses ‘mass spectrometry’ in evaluating the construction of an ‘aerosolized tissue’. Chemists and researchers at Imperial College London designed this intelligent creation. What was found in the studies was that tissues could be determined as cancerous, or not, instantly. Lipid components contained within the smoke generated from various tissues had distinguishing insignia.

The devise and its procedural use still have to undergo clinical trials; and if they test well, they will get regulatory approval. Takats says this will greatly enhance the doctors’ surgeries and cancer cell removal.

Operating teams cannot always be certain that tissues are cancerous, an a pause is necessayr during the procedure so that a tissue sample can be sent to the lab for analysis. This can delay the operating process by up to half an hour while the patient remains under anesthesia.

A major benefit the iKnife offers is an immediate response to a sample tissue.

“One can sample a bit of tissue and the result is displayed on the screen in a second. It allows fast analysis and more sampling points,” Takats said.

In an effort to prove the iKnife’s efficiency, Takat and the team organized some 302 patients to obtain several thousand cancerous and non-cancerous tissue cell samples, and create a database of tissue signatures for the instrument.

They extended the boundaries even further, giving this tool to surgeons. The surgeons then logged the data that was produced during 91 operations. Upon analysis of the recorded samples, researchers were able to determine the cells that were cancerous, normal, and also the differing types of cancer cells.

Traditional pathology techniques were also employed to analyze the samples and the iKnife’s results matched those with optimum accuracy, as reported by the research team.

The new ‘wonder knife’ also has its own set of drawbacks, however, as illustrated by Dr. Joseph Kim. Dr. Kim is a cancer surgeon at City of Hope in Duarte, California;  he is unsure of the new tool.

He said that it forces you to burn tissue in area where you wouldn’t burn under different circumstances.

“The type of operations I do, I’m not sure I’d want to change.” He commented.

As an example, Dr. Kim performs surgeries on gastrointestinal cancers and would not use an electrosurgical tool to cut a colon. In the same breath he goes on to say that the tool holds potential for surgeons who utilize the ‘cutting-and-cauterizing’ equipment more.

Even if the knife can only be used in specific areas, if it proves its worth, it could mean a great enhancement to the successful eradication of cancerous tissue cells in some patients.

See the researchers published works on the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Jessica Rosslee