TECH
18/07/2013 06:50 BST

'Cancer Sniffing' Surgical Knife Can Distinguish Between Tumours And Healthy Tissue

A knife that can 'smell' tumours has been developed, promising to make cancer surgery more effective and cut the need for follow up operations.

The iKnife, developed by a team at Imperial College London, can identify cancers by analysing the smoke given off as it burns through tissue.

It sucks the smoke into an onboard mass spectrometer and gives results in seconds.

iknife

Trials are taking place at three London hospitals

Normally, surgeons will remove healthy tissue around a tumour to avoid leaving cancerous tissue behind.

Despite this, many surgeries require follow-up procedures to remove further tissue - one in five for breast cancer and one in ten for lung, reports the BBC.

Dr Zoltan Takats who invented the knife said under the present system "a tissue sample is removed from the patient and sent to the histology lab for analysis", reports Sky News.

He went on: "But even in vast hospitals it can take 10 to 30 minutes - there are also reliability issues - the histology team are in an extreme rush and having to do things as fast as possible.

"We can give feedback to the surgeon in some cases in less than a second. This could be a real game-changer for tumour resection surgery.