Cancer Detection Pen

A new cancer detecting pen could become an important tool in the war against cancer. The pen called MasSpec Pen can detect cancer cells with 96% accuracy. It can identify cancerous tissue from healthy tissue in 10 seconds and allows a non-destructive diagnosis of cancer. Although this device is not perfect yet, further research and development would enable this device to be used in surgeries by next year.

The usual practice by surgeons for cancer treatment at the moment is to remove cancer cells and tumors while trying to save the normal tissue. This is achieved by sending tissue samples to a lab to determine whether the cells are cancerous or normal. This is quite time-consuming. In operations as delicate as those for breast cancer, it is of ultimate importance that normal cells be preserved as much as possible.

With a hand-held device such as the MasSpec Pen, surgeries for cancer can become easier and less time consuming thus helping both surgeons and patients. Researchers in Texas who developed the pen hold high hopes and deem it highly beneficial in cancer treatment.

The pen is currently in its testing phase and has proved to be 96% accurate during all of its tests conducted on human cells as well as mice with tumors. Apart from providing quick results and being highly accurate, this hand-held device also preserves tissues from damage during its operation and is therefore thought of as a more favorable tool for cancer-related surgeries than present practices.

Cancer Detection Pen
The pen is connected to a device called the ‘Mass Spectrometer’ and can detect cancer in real time.

How the pen works is quite simple. It extracts molecules from the patient’s tissue using 10 microliters of water. These molecules combined with the water in the pen go through certain tubes in the pen back to an instrument called mass spectrometer. This instrument is capable of identifying the molecular fingerprint of cancer in real time during the surgery.

This way, the MasSpec Pen quickly tells the surgeon whether the molecules extracted are cancerous or normal. Based on its assessment, surgeons can then either cut out the tissue if it is cancerous or preserve it if it is normal. No lengthy testing time is required. Within seconds, the surgeons operating on cancer patients will be able to decide whether to remove or keep tissue cells.

The MasSpec Pen hasn’t been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yet. It will undergo clinical trials soon and will also be tested further on more tissue samples before entering its clinical trials phase. The mass spectrometer connected to the pen which actually analyzes the sample of molecules during a surgery is a huge device and takes up a lot of space. The researchers who created the whole device are working on a smaller device to make this device efficient as well as convenient.

If successful after its trial phase, this pen can prove to be a huge breakthrough in cancer treatment procedures. It will not only save time and cost of the treatment but will also lessen the trauma, the number of surgeries and the pain cancer patients normally have to go through during treatment for their ailment. Resultantly, this little hand-held device could result in safer and more effective surgeries for cancer patients.