New laser probe identifies brain cancer cells in real time

A new intraoperative handheld probe for cancer-cell-detection enables surgeons, for the first time, to detect more than 92% of invasive brain cancer cells in real time during surgery, according to its developers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, The Neuro, McGill University MUHC, and Polytechnique Montréal.
“Often it is impossible to visually distinguish cancer from normal brain, so invasive brain cancer cells frequently remain after surgery, leading to cancer recurrence and a worse prognosis,” says Kevin Petrecca, MD, Chief of Neurosurgery and brain cancer researcher at The Neuro and co-senior author of the study published in Science Translational Medicine. “Surgically minimizing the number of cancer cells improves patient outcomes.”
According to co-developer Frédéric Leblond, PhD, Professor in Engineering Physics at Polytechnique Montréal, and co-senior author of the study, the probe technique uses Raman spectroscopy laser technology to measure light scattered from molecules, based on preliminary tests on patients with grade 2, 3 and 4 gliomas. “The emitted light provides a spectroscopic signal that can be interpreted to provide specific information about the molecular makeup of the interrogated tissue,” says Leblond. The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital plans to launch a trial for patients with newly diagnosed and recurrent glioblastoma.