Researchers at a Scottish university are developing a new laser system that will help physicians distinguish between cancer tumor cells and healthy tissues, and allow them to remove the cancerous cells while leaving healthy surrounding tissue intact. To help further this research, the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has bestowed the project’s leader, Prof. Jonathan Shephard a 1.2 GBP grant and will further collaborate with the University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust to develop the new system for brain cancers.
As one consultant surgeon at the Leeds trust noted, “the precision of a laser combined with imaging to accurately discriminate cancer from normal tissue will greatly enhance the ability of surgeons to completely remove cancers with minimal side-effects for patients.”
According to Shephard, the “laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that restricts damage to the surrounding, healthy cells – within the width of a human hair. Because the laser pulses are so short, there is no time for heat to burn the surrounding tissue, as happens with current surgical tools.” Shepherd’s team is also working to develop a flexible, optical fibre system that can be used to target and remove cancer cells on an even smaller scale than the current technology allows.