It may take up to four weeks for patients to be sure that the entire tumor has been removed during cancer surgery. A moment of agonizing uncertainty – in which any remaining tumor cells can multiply again. A team of Jena scientists has researched a diagnostic procedure that could revolutionize the previous procedure: using laser light, researchers make the cancerous tissue visible. This allows them to provide the surgical team with real-time information to safely identify tumors and tumor margins and decide how much tissue needs to be cut.
This is possible thanks to a compact microscope developed by a team of researchers from the Leibniz Institute of Photonic Technology, Friedrich Schiller University, the University Hospital and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering in Jena. It combines three imaging techniques and uses tissue samples to generate spatially high-resolution images of tissue structure during surgery. The software makes the molecular patterns and details visible and processes them with the aid of artificial intelligence. Automated analysis is faster and promises more reliable results than currently used frozen diagnoses, which can only be evaluated by an experienced pathologist and still need to be confirmed later.
The optical method, by which scientists from Jena received the renowned Kaiser Friedrich Award in 2018, helps prevent weakened patients from having to undergo another operation. Thus, it makes a significant contribution to improving your chances of recovery. Professor Jürgen Popp, the scientific director of Leibniz IPHT, who was also involved in the rapid test laser research, predicts that the compact microscope may be in the clinic within five years.
This could save the considerable costs of the German healthcare system.
One minute in the operating room is the most expensive minute in the entire clinic. "
Professor Orlando Guntinas-Lichius, Director of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Hospital Universitario de Jena
In the case of tumors in the head and neck region, for example, cancer cells are found after almost all operations.
And the Jena researchers are already thinking about the future. They are researching a solution that allows them to use the unique properties of light to detect tumors within the body at an early stage and remove them immediately. "To do this, we need new methods that no longer work with rigid optics, but with flexible endoscopes," says Jürgen Popp. Technologists at Leibniz IPHT produce these fiber probes: glass fibers that are thinner than human hair. They pave the way for minimally invasive medicine that enables smooth diagnosis and healing. "Our view," says Jürgen Popp, "is to use light not only to identify the tumor, but to remove it immediately." This would eliminate the need for doctors to cut with a scalpel and allow them to remove the tumor layer by layer. light to completely remove the patient's tumor ". In ten to fifteen years, the research team hopes to find a solution. Popp predicts that this would be "a major step toward a new diagnosis and therapy of tumors."
Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology
Popp, J. et al. (2019) Multimodal non-linear microscopy of head and neck carcinoma – towards surgery that assists the analysis of freezing. Neck. doi.org/10.1002/hed.24477.
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