New Invention Detects Cancer in Seconds

Technology is being developed in Austin, Texas, to make cancer detection faster and tumor removal more precise. A device called the MasSpec Pen can detect cancer with just one touch, researchers said.

“Well, it’s a game changer because I was doing a case the other day with a surgeon, and we had to wait an additional two hours because the current method takes that long,” said Aydin Zahedivash, medical student and co-creator of the MasSpec Pen.

He says the pen can deliver results within 20 seconds and is much less invasive for the patient than the traditional method of diagnosis.

No biopsy needed

“That process usually will involve taking out some of the tissue, which means cutting it from a patient. Our technology can detect cancer inside of a tissue without cutting it or altering it,” Zahedivash said.

During surgery, a drop of water on the pen pulls molecules from the tissue in question. An instrument called the mass spectrometer then analyzes the water with the molecules to determine whether cancer is present in the tissue. It adds precision to detecting the disease. In seconds, surgeons will know what part of the tissue to extract, how much to cut, and what not to touch so healthy tissue is not damaged.

“We’ve done testing on human tissues that have been taken out of patients and those have shown 96 percent accuracy detecting cancer from non-cancer,” Zahedivash said.

Rapid development

New available technologies have allowed an interdisciplinary team to develop the MasSpec Pen in 2½ years. The team 3-D printed the prototype, allowing the creators to rapidly develop a design that worked.

Zahedivash said within the year, the MasSpec Pen will be tested in surgery at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. There are also plans to test the technology at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

The device would require approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before becoming widely available.

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