New cancer knife can 'smell' cancerous tissue - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

New cancer knife can 'smell' cancerous tissue

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A doctor demonstrates how the 'iKnife' can detect cancer cells. A doctor demonstrates how the 'iKnife' can detect cancer cells.
This knife would be outfitted with a spectrometer that could sense when a cancer cell is being sliced through. This knife would be outfitted with a spectrometer that could sense when a cancer cell is being sliced through.
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A new twist on a common surgical tool is making waves. Called the 'I' or Intelligent Knife, the small device could revolutionize how doctors treat people battling cancer.

"The iKnife offers the potential for learning more about the spread of tumor during the surgery in real time," said Doctor Thomas Shellenberger, a surgical oncologist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

That is because the knife can detect cancerous cells in real time, as a surgeon is cutting through a tumor. Basically, the knife can smell cancer, letting the doctor know when he or she has cut past the tumor into healthy tissue.

"The smoke that's generated by electrocautery is collected and sent to a spectrometer which helps to differentiate the chemical compounds we've just cut though," said Shellenberger.

"It is exciting. It can mean less extensive operations or operations," he continued.

Right now the iKnife is undergoing testing in the United Kingdom with near-perfect results, and cancer patients here in the Valley say they wish it were already available in the United States.

"(Doctors) said, 'Yeah, it was stage four cancer," recalled cancer patient David Null.

Null went into surgery a few months back to remove a large tumor from his neck. He says he wishes the iKnife were available for his operation.

"They kept finding more and more (cancerous cells), and they had to keep stopping and checking and stopping and checking, and I think that's why it look longer," he explained.

Since his tumor was not clearly defined, surgeons also had to remove part of the healthy muscle surrounding the tumor, leaving Null without much mobility in his neck. He said he is also left with the worry that the cancer could reappear.

"The not knowing is the hard part. You're always going to be worried. With the knife, it probably would have guaranteed that they would have got it all," he said.

Doctors say, pending the results of the UK study, the iKnife could make its way onto our shore in the next five years.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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