“Pen” capable of detecting cancer cells in 10 seconds


Researchers at the University of Texas, USA, have now created a device that can represent a revolution in surgery and cancer treatment. The pen-shaped instrument is able to detect cancer cells in the patient’s body in about 10 seconds. This can be very useful during surgeries for the removal of tumors.

“If we talk to cancer patients after surgery, one of the things they say right away is that they hope the surgeon has been able to remove all the cancerous tissue”, said Livia Schiavinato Eberlin, one of the researchers behind the study, quoted by Sky News.

“When you find that it was not possible to remove all the cancerous tissue, it is something that breaks our heart”, she added.

In cases where cancer cells remain, the scenario becomes more likely to be spread, but to remove too much tissue, including healthy tissue, which is also not desirable. Thus, with this device, called MasSpec, the aim is to remove the cancer cells “to the last vestige”.

“This technology will be able to drastically improve the chances that surgeons can even remove the cells to the last vestige”, said researcher Livia Schiavinato Eberlin.

The analysis is done in real time, in a few seconds, which can be an alternative to tissue (biopsies), which take several days and may not be 100% reliable. Tests to this new technology point to efficacy rates of 96%, according to Sky News.

MacSpec works by loosening a small drop of water in the tissue, absorbing chemicals inside the cells. The liquid is withdrawn again to the tip of the pen, already bringing within it chemical information concerning the cells with which it contacted. In a few seconds, the liquid (the molecules contained in it) is analyzed by a mass spectrometer and the results appear on a screen that is consulted by doctors who are better able to decide if they should cut a segment of tissue, it intact.

The main goal is to continue to validate the tests for device reliability and start testing on humans from next year.