New \'intelligent knife\' set to revolutionise cancer treatment

19-Jul-2013

Imperial College London scientists testing the iKnife which can detect cancerous tumours, avoiding the need for repeat surgery

Scientists at Imperial College London have made a breakthrough in cancer care with the invention of the iKnife, an intelligent medical tool that can help to detect tumours.

Now undergoing clinical trials, if it proves successful it will mean patients will not have to return for further surgery when bits of tumour have been missed or have regrown. In breast cancer patients, one in five currently have to have follow-up procedures.

The iKnife works by cutting through tissue with a hot blade. The knife gives off smoke that is sucked into a ‘nose’ device, a mass spectrometer, which is able to distinguish whether the blade is going through healthy or cancerous tissue.

We believe it has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive

The system’s inventor at Imperial, Dr Zoltan Takats, said: “So far the results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures.

“It provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn\'t been possible before.

“We believe it has the potential to reduce tumour recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive.”

The university’s head of surgery and cancer, Professor Jermey Nicholson, added: “The iKnife is one manifestation of several advanced chemical profiling technologies developed in our labs that are contributing to surgical decision-making and real-time diagnostics.

“These methods are part of a new framework of patient journey optimisation that we are building at Imperial to help doctors diagnose disease, select the best treatments, and monitor individual patients’ progress as part our personalised healthcare plan.”

We want to be among the best countries in the world at treating cancer and know that new technologies have the potential to save lives

Trials are being carried out at three London hospitals – Charing Cross, Hammersmith and St Mary’s.

Health minister, Lord Howe, said the device was a breakthrough in cancer care, adding: “We want to be among the best countries in the world at treating cancer and know that new technologies have the potential to save lives.

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“The iKnife could reduce the need for people needing secondary operations for cancer and improve accuracy.”