The School of Medicine at the Washington University in St. Louis revealed that a team of its researchers have developed specially programmed goggles to detect and distinguish cancerous cells from normal ones. This breakthrough will help surgeons to remove cancerous tumours which are otherwise difficult to remove completely.
Tumours are very difficult to remove surgically and even after a successful surgery, there is a chance of cancerous cells remaining. Due to the latter, a second surgery is often required to eradicate the cancerous growth completely. A common reason for this is the inability to clearly distinguish cancer cells from normal ones. Surgeons have to rely on images from an electron microscope that magnify, but do not differentiate between the cells.
The newly invented goggles simply create a distinction. The patient is injected with a specially prepared dye and this causes the cancer cells to appear blue to the observer while wearing the goggles.
The idea of a pair of “night vision goggles” for cancer cells was conceived by the leader of the research team, Dr. Samuel Achilefu (Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Optical Radiology Lab at the Washington University in St. Louis). His inspiration came from the Gulf War, where soldiers used night vision goggles to detect enemy targets and take them out. These goggles could essentially eliminate the need for a second surgery.
A successful breast cancer surgery was carried out using the goggles by Dr Julie Margenthaler at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Centre at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. She commented that the though the technology would need to be refined, it was “less cumbersome” than she had anticipated and the potential for this idea was enormous.