Knife that ‘smells for tumours’ can detect uterine cancer in seconds | Cancer

A revolutionary surgical knife that ‘smells for tumours’ can diagnose uterine cancer in seconds, researchers have found in a breakthrough that could help thousands of healthy women get the green light faster.

The disease is the fourth most common cancer in women and affects around 9,000 people a year in the UK, but only around 10% of people with suspicious symptoms who undergo a biopsy have it.

Today, experts at Imperial College London have discovered that the iKnife, a device previously used to treat breast and brain cancers, can accurately detect the presence of endometrial cancer.

“The iKnife reliably diagnosed endometrial cancer in seconds, with 89% diagnostic accuracy, minimizing current delays for women awaiting histopathological diagnosis,” the team of researchers wrote. in the journal Cancer. “The results presented in this study may pave the way for new diagnostic avenues.”

The iKnife uses electrical currents to differentiate cancerous tissue from healthy tissue by analyzing the smoke emitted when biopsy tissue is vaporized after it has been removed from the uterus.

The researchers said its effectiveness was proven using biopsy tissue samples from 150 women with suspected uterine cancer, and the results were compared with current diagnostic methods. The team plans to launch a major clinical trial, which could lead to its widespread use.

Athena Lamnisos, chief executive of the cancer charity Eve Appeal, which funded the research, said: “Waiting for test results is stressful, especially if that test is about whether or not you have cancer. When you hear the ‘c’ word is even a possibility, the days can’t go by fast enough until a clinician gives you the all clear.

“Womb cancer has a ‘red flag’ symptom of post-menopausal bleeding which should always be checked out on the recommendation of your GP within two weeks. Waiting another two weeks for results can be very difficult for patients.

“There are many reasons for abnormal vaginal bleeding after menopause – uterine cancer is just one – the ability to provide a diagnostic test that rules out or rules out cancer immediately, and accurately , could make such a positive difference.

“This research supported by Eve has the potential to create a step change in faster diagnosis and, for the 90% of women with postmenopausal bleeding that is not cancer, a truly effective way to reassure themselves. We know how important this is for patients.

Alison, a 57-year-old from west London who had symptoms of womb cancer earlier this year but was finally cleared, says the iKnife would have made a huge difference in her experience .

“Fortunately, I was one of the lucky sufferers of post-menopausal bleeding who discovered it wasn’t caused by cancer. It was really frustrating to wait for the results, which took me almost three weeks.

“I was asked to go in person to receive the results as well, which to me was a clear indication that this was bad news and that I had uterine cancer. It was terrifying.

“It would have made such a difference to know right away that I didn’t have cancer and not have to wait three weeks.”

Professor Sadaf Ghaem-Maghami, who led the research at Imperial College London, said getting a diagnosis in seconds could allow women confirmed to have cancer to start treatment earlier, while those deemed healthy would avoid weeks of anxiety.

“The iKnife has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we manage people seen in rapid access clinics with significant abnormal vaginal bleeding who have been referred for a potential diagnosis of endometrial cancer.

“With its high diagnostic accuracy of 89% and its positive predictive value of 94%, we could immediately reassure the person of the very low probability of having cancer if the iKnife result is negative and accelerate other tests, analyzes and treatments. for people whose biopsies indicate the presence of cancer. This could occur while awaiting confirmation of standard pathology, which can take up to two weeks.

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