MasSpec “Cancer Pen” Helps Surgeons Find Malignant Tumors in 10 Seconds, Say University of Texas – Austin Scientists

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A pen that detects cancer cells in 10 seconds has been developed at the University of Texas at Austin. The new device is aimed at helping surgeons pinpoint cancer cells and more precisely remove malignant tumors

A handheld “pen” connected by tubing to a mass spectrometer device can detect cancer cells within 10 seconds, speeding up identification of cancerous tissue and helping surgeons more safely,accurately remove tumors, researchers reported Wednesday.

The probe works in real time, sending a watery mixture from a tissue sample down a tube to a mass spectrometer device.

The pen uses a little drop of water combine with tissue for analysis. The team from University of Texas – Austin reported study results in the journal Science Translational Medicine (Science Translational Medicine 06 Sep 2017).

The pen known as the MasSpec Pen can correctly determine if a human tissue sample is cancerous or not by analyzing the metabolites of tissue. Cancerous tissue produces a different set of metabolites compared to normal, healthy tissue. Livia Eberlin, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Jialing Zhang, a research associate in her lab, and other scientists tested the pen on samples of human lung, thyroid, breast, and ovarian cancers and in living mice with breast cancer. The device was successful about 93 percent of the time, The success depends on the location and type of tumor involved.

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Livia S. Eberlin, chemistry professor at the University of Texas at Austin, led a team of scientists and engineers in developing a tool called the MasSpec Pen which rapidly and accurately identifies cancer in real time during surgery.

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