Beth Buczynski

High-Tech Glasses Help Surgeons Visualize and Target Clustered Cancer Cells

by , 02/12/14

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A wearable technology so new it still doesn’t have an official name could allow for more precise cancer-removal surgeries in the future. Cancer cells are notoriously difficult to see (even under high-powered magnification), and without a guaranteed way to distinguish cancerous cells from healthy cells, surgeons are often forced to remove neighboring tissues. Now, a new type of eyewear developed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis could put an end to this intrusive procedure. The specialized glasses help surgeons to “see” cancer cells, and in the future, could reduce the need for additional surgical procedures and subsequent stress on patients, as well as time and expense.


High-tech glasses, eyewear, wearable technology, Washington University School of Medicine, visualize cancer cells, cancer cells, cancer-fighting technology, surgical glasses, cancer-spotting glasses,

Cancer is a terrifying diagnosis, but thanks to advanced surgical technologies, chances of remission after tumor removal are getting better every year. The new wearable technology was developed by a team led by Samuel Achilefu, PhD, professor of radiology and biomedical engineering at Washington University. It incorporates custom video technology, a head-mounted display and a targeted molecular agent that attaches to cancer cells, making them glow when viewed with the glasses.

“A florescent marker injected into the patient and special lighting made cancer cells glow blue when viewed with the technology. The lighter the shade of blue, the more concentrated the cancer cells are,” explains a press release.

“We’re in the early stages of this technology, and more development and testing will be done, but we’re certainly encouraged by the potential benefits to patients,” said breast surgeon Julie Margenthaler, MD, an associate professor of surgery at Washington University, who performed today’s operation, in the same release. “Imagine what it would mean if these glasses eliminated the need for follow-up surgery and the associated pain, inconvenience and anxiety.”

Margenthaler said about 20 to 25 percent of breast cancer patients who have lumps removed require a second surgery because current technology doesn’t adequately show the extent of the disease during the first operation. By making it easier to tell the difference between clustered cancer cells and healthy tissue, this painful, expensive procedure could become a thing of the past.

In a study published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics, researchers noted that tumors as small as 1 mm in diameter (the thickness of about 10 sheets of paper) could be detected.

“This technology has great potential for patients and health-care professionals,” Achilefu said. “Our goal is to make sure no cancer is left behind.”

Via Science Daily

Images via euthman and Robert Boston/Washington University School of Medicine

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