General surgery

The researches find that the cancer surgery to determine exactly where a tumor starts and where it ends. Removing too much tissue can impair normal functions, but not taking enough can mean the disease could recur. The “MasSpec Pen;” a handheld device in development, could someday enable surgeons to distinguish between cancerous and healthy tissue with greater certainty in seconds, while in the operating room. Today; researchers report first results of its use in human surgeries.

The cancer surgery to determine

The researchers will present their findings at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Fall 2019 National Meeting & Exposition. ACS; the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 9,500 presentations on a wide range of science topics. It’s been shows with extensive clinical data that highly effective surgeries are those that remove the most cancer, but also preserve the most normal tissue.

They created the MasSpec Pen because we thought it  incredible if there was a technology that could actually provide molecular information right in the operating room in living tissues within a time frame that could expedite surgical decisions.” Principal investigator Livia Eberlin, Ph.D Surprisingly; the most common method that medical professionals currently use to determine tumor margins or verify a diagnosis is 100 years old: histopathology.

Biocompatible device connected

With this technique, a tissue sample is extract during surgery and take to a laboratory. The sample is flash-frozen, section, stain and examine with a microscope. In total; this procedure can take an average of 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the patient, who is still under anesthesia, and the surgeon are left waiting. In addition; while histopathology is effective for many surgeries, especially for cancers; the process can be subjective because artifacts from the freezing process can complicate interpretation, Eberlin explains.

To overcome these challenges, Eberlin and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin developed the MasSpec Pen; a handheld and biocompatible device connected to a high-performance mass spectrometer. The device rapidly identifies the molecular profile of tissue exposed during a surgery by first depositing a small droplet of water on the tissue surface for about three seconds. Next; the droplet is transferred to the mass spectrometer, where molecules from the tissue are identified.

Finally, machine learning algorithms comb through the molecular information and provide a predictive diagnosis that surgeons can act on. The surgeon just has to touch the tissue with the pen, and trigger the system with a foot pedal,” Eberlin says. “From there, everything is coded and automated so that the whole process is completed in under 10 seconds.” So far the MasSpec Pen has been tested on more than 800 human tissues ex vivo, including normal and cancerous breast, brain, pancreatic, thyroid, lung and ovarian tissues.