‘Cancer Pen’ Could Help Surgeons Spot Tumor Cells in Seconds

A new “cancer pen” promises to help surgeons immediately detect and completely remove cancerous tumor tissue, without having to send samples off to a lab for testing while the patient languishes on the table.

The MasSpec Pen is a hand-held device that allows doctors to test in real-time whether tissue is cancerous or not, delivering results in about 10 seconds, researchers report.

The pen will make it easier to surgically clear out all the cancer cells surrounding a tumor, explained senior researcher Livia Eberlin, an assistant professor of chemistry with the University of Texas at Austin.

In particular, cancers such as those of the breast, pancreas and brain “tend to invade surrounding normal tissue,” Eberlin said. “For a surgeon, it can be really tricky, because these cells resemble normal tissue. Just judging by [the] eye, it can be very challenging.”

The pen’s accuracy currently stands at more than 96 percent, based on tests that used tissues removed from 253 cancer patients.

The new device also could shorten cancer surgeries, said co-researcher John Lin, an undergraduate research assistant in Eberlin’s lab.

Cancer surgeons these days send tissue samples off to an in-hospital pathology lab during the operation to see if they have removed all the tumor, Lin said.

But the process can take as long as a half hour, during which time the patient remains on the table and under anesthesia. By comparison, the MasSpec Pen delivers results within a handful of heartbeats.

The device’s potential accuracy is as valuable as its easy use, said Dr. Gary Deutsch, a surgical oncologist with Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Lake Success, N.Y.

Most surgeons have had the misfortune of finding out that tissues initially judged cancer-free by pathologists during an operation were later ruled positive for cancer during follow-up analysis, Deutsch said.

“Unfortunately, this leads to the possibility of additional surgery and/or additional treatments,” Deutsch said. “Having a powerful technology at our fingertips in the operating room would be practice-changing.”

The single-use pen connects by a thin tube to a mass spectrometer, a scientific device that analyzes the chemical and mass composition of molecules.

Surgeons hold the tip of the pen against the patient’s tissue, where it quickly releases and then recaptures a tiny drop of water, Eberlin said.

“The droplet rests on the tissue for about three seconds,” Eberlin said. During that time, the water drop soaks up molecules from the tissue.

“Most of our molecules are water-soluble,” Eberlin said. “You can get them into the water droplet in a very gentle and simple way, and then send that to the mass spectrometer.”

The droplet is transported into the mass spectrometer through the thin tube, where it is analyzed to determine whether the molecules it contains appear normal or cancerous, Lin said.

“Cancer tissues and normal tissues have very different molecular profiles that we use to diagnose disease,” Eberlin said.

When analysis is completed, the words “Normal” or “Cancer” appear on a computer screen.

The device can even determine different types and even subtypes of cancer, since each cancer produces a unique set of biomarkers that act as its molecular “fingerprints,” the researchers added.

The research team currently is tweaking the design of the tool to further improve it, Eberlin said.

They hope to start testing the device in surgical procedures early next year, but it likely will be several years before the pen would be available on the market, Eberlin said.

Deutsch said he’s looking forward to the pen being tested on cancers that tend to be more invasive and trickier to remove.

The current study used specimens of breast, lung, thyroid and ovarian cancers to judge the pen’s accuracy.

“The ability to more accurately evaluate the margins in stomach, bile duct, pancreatic and colon cancers could be even more impactful, as the margins in these tumors are notoriously difficult to confirm,” Deutsch said.

He also hopes future studies will examine whether cancer treatments like radiation therapy or chemotherapy could throw off the results from the mass spectrometer.

“As a surgeon who battles the unpredictability of margin assessment on a weekly basis, I believe the MasSpec Pen has great potential to revolutionize the field of surgical oncology, and I am anxious to see what it can do in clinical practice,” Deutsch said.

The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: HealthDay


Stir-fried Shrimp with Peas


2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 fresh red chili
2/3 pound white cabbage
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-1/2 cups frozen peas
3/4 pound peeled cooked large shrimp
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


  1. Cut the chile into thin slivers, discarding the seeds.
  2. Slice the cabbage into thin 1/8-inch-wide strips.
  3. Heat the two oils in a large frying pan over a high heat. Stir-fry the ginger and chili for a few seconds, then add the peas and stir-fry for 2 minutes, or until they turn bright green and are completely thawed.
  4. Add the cabbage to the pan. Stir-fry for another 3 minutes.
  5. Add the shrimp and cook for another minute to heat them through.
  6. Toss in the cilantro, stir, and serve immediately.

Cook’s Tips

  • Select chilies according to how hot you want the dish—their strength is usually stated on the package. Mild to medium are good with light ingredients. Remember that starchy accompaniments such as noodles or rice will ‘absorb’ the heat.
  • When you are preparing chilies, be careful to avoid accidentally rubbing your eyes. Wash your hands immediately to remove the chili oils, or wear a pair of rubber gloves.
  • Use the kind of frozen peas you prefer—baby peas are small and sweet, but this recipe also works well with ordinary green peas.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Super Foods Cookbook

Dishes of the Salmon Fair of Ikea Japan

Salmon-shaped Pancake Dessert

Video: Does Immunotherapy Offer Hope to Finally End Cancer?

Cancer kills 8 million people per year. Immunotherapy is a promising breakthrough treatment. The video delves into the cutting-edge medical science behind immunotherapy for answers and more questions.

Watch video at Bloomberg (2:39 minutes) . . . .

Heart Benefit of Alcohol not Seen in People with Liver Disease

Lisa Rapaport wrote . . . . . . .

Light to moderate drinkers may have a lower risk of heart disease than teetotalers, but a new study suggests this doesn’t hold true for people with fatty liver disease.

Most people have a little bit of fat in their liver, but fatty liver disease can be diagnosed when more than 5 percent of the liver by weight is made up of fat. If the condition isn’t linked to liver damage from heavy drinking, it’s known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and is most often associated with obesity and certain eating habits.

For the current study, researchers examined data on 5,115 adults aged 18 to 30, following them for up to 25 years to assess their drinking habits and check for evidence of fatty liver disease, heart disease or risk factors for cardiac problems.

“Heart disease is actually the leading cause of death in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease so it is important to investigate possible dietary and lifestyle factors that might help prevent complications of heart disease,” said lead study author Dr. Lisa VanWagner of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“We failed to find any association between moderate alcohol use and multiple different markers of heart disease and heart disease risks, including blood pressure, cholesterol or calcium deposits in the arteries of the heart,” VanWagner said by email.

To look for a connection between alcohol use and heart disease, researchers focused on 2,479 participants who remained in the study for 25 years and didn’t already have a history of heart attack or heart failure, alcohol-related liver damage or other issues like being too obese to fit in CT scanners for liver imaging.

In the final analysis, 570 participants, or 23 percent had NAFLD, researchers report in Gastroenterology.

Roughly 58 percent of the people with NAFLD were light or moderate drinkers, while the rest said they didn’t drink at all.

Drinking in moderation was defined as an average of one or two drinks a day for men and one a day for women, VanWagner said.

Drinkers were more likely to be white, male and have more education than nondrinkers. People who used alcohol were also more likely to be obese and have diabetes.

But there wasn’t any difference in heart disease or risk factors for heart disease based on whether people with NAFLD abstained or drank moderately.

The study wasn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove whether or how alcohol use might influence heart health in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

It’s also possible at least some of the study participants weren’t truthful about their drinking habits when they were surveyed, and some might have downplayed their alcohol use or actually had alcoholic fatty liver disease, the authors note.

“Alcohol abuse is a well known risk factor for liver disease, up to cirrhosis and end stage liver damage,” said Dr. Valerio Nobili of University La Sapienza and Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, Italy.

It’s also possible that the study didn’t find a protective effect from alcohol for people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease because of other factors such as how much exercise people got or what they ate, Nobili, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

“Today it’s very well known that moderate alcohol use compared to abstinence is associated with lower mortality in the general population, decreasing the incidence of coronary heart disease, diabetes and ischemic stroke,” Nobili said. “What isn’t clear is whether that is also true in people affected by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.”

Source: Reuters

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