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Surgical tool smokes out cancer in seconds

Sniffing for telltale molecules, method analyzes tissue with every cut

8:58am, July 18, 2013

A new tool could tell surgeons within seconds whether they are slicing through cancerous or healthy tissue. The tool, which analyzes smoke produced by electric currents used to cut or destroy tissue, was about 95 percent accurate in identifying cancers and other human tissues during surgery.

Testing the smoke could help surgeons identify the outer margins of a tumor and remove as much of it as possible, leaving healthy tissue intact. Currently, if doctors need information about the extent of a cancer during a surgical procedure, they must wait 20 to 30 minutes for a tissue sample to be examined under a microscope. The new tool, nicknamed the iKnife, delivers a diagnosis in 2.5 seconds or less, researchers report July 17 in Science Translational Medicine.

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