High-tech glasses detect cancer cells during surgery
A team of scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (WUSTL) and the University of Arizona in Tucson, led by Samuel Achilefu, have created a pair of high-tech glasses that help surgeons visualize cancer cells during surgeries, which glow blue when viewed through the eyewear.
Achilefu, a professor of radiology and of biomedical engineering at WUSTL and co-leader of the Oncologic Imaging Program at Siteman Cancer Center, and his team developed the technology that incorporates custom video, a head-mounted display, and a targeted molecular agent injected into a patient that attaches to cancer cells, making them glow.
The wearable technology was used during surgery for the first time on February 10, 2014.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Dr. Achilefu stated, “This technology has great potential improve patient outcome and enhance decision making for health-care professionals. “Our goal is to make sure no cancer is left behind.”
Cancer cells are difficult to see, even under high-powered magnification. The high-tech glasses are designed to make it easier for surgeons to distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells, helping to ensure no stray tumor cells are left behind during surgery. Currently, surgeons are required to remove the tumor as well as neighboring tissue that may or may not include cancer cells. The samples are sent to a lab, and if cancer cells are found in neighboring tissue, a second surgery often is recommended to remove additional tissue. The glasses could reduce the need for additional surgical procedures and continued stress on patients, as well as time and expenses.
Achilefu worked with Washington University’s Office of Technology Management and has a patent pending for the technology. He also is seeking FDA approval for a different molecular agent he’s helping to develop for use with the glasses, which specifically targets and stays longer in cancer cells.
Achilefu continued, “Our next steps are to optimize the ergonomics of the system. We anticipate filing for FDA approval to use these goggles in multiple clinical trial sites by early 2015.”
This is an incredible breakthrough for surgeons and patients because it can reduce the number of surgeries a patient has to undergo and it will increase the accuracy of cancer cell detection.