Fiber Optic pH Probe May Aid Breast Cancer Surgery

University of Adelaide researchers have developed an optical fiber probe that distinguishes breast cancer tissue from normal tissue - potentially allowing surgeons to be much more precise when removing breast cancer. The device could help prevent follow-up surgery, currently needed for 15-20% of breast cancer surgery patients where all the cancer is not removed. In an article published online on November 30, 2016 in the journal Cancer Research, researchers at the University of Adelaide in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, and the Schools of Physical Sciences and Medicine, describe how the optical probe works by detecting the difference in pH between the two types of tissue. The article is titled “Cancer Detection in Human Tissue Samples Using a Fiber-Tip pH Probe.” The research was carried out in collaboration with the Breast, Endocrine and Surgical Oncology Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. "We have designed and tested a fiber-tip pH probe that has very high sensitivity for differentiating between healthy and cancerous tissue with an extremely simple - so far experimental - setup that is fully portable," says project leader Dr. Erik Schartner, postdoctoral researcher at the CNBP at the University of Adelaide. "Because it is cost-effective to do measurements in this manner compared to many other medical technologies, we see a clear scope for this technology in operating theaters." Current surgical techniques to remove cancer lack a reliable method to identify the tissue type during surgery, relying on the experience and judgement of the surgeon to decide on how much tissue to remove. Because of this, surgeons often perform “cavity shaving,” which can result in the removal of excessive healthy tissue.
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