The probe was first developed in 2015 by scientists from Polytechnique Montréal, the University of Montreal Hospital Research Center (CRCHUM), the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University, and the MUHC.
The device has since been perfected and now boasts improved accuracy. It can also now detect not only brain cancer cells but lung, colon and skin cancer cells too.
During testing the probe achieved almost 100% sensitivity, which means that when the probe is pointed at a cancerous region, it is almost never wrong.
"Minimizing, or completely eliminating, the number of cancer cells during surgery is a critical part of cancer treatment, yet detecting cancer cells during surgery is challenging," explained Dr. Petrecca, Chief of Neurosurgery at the Neuro.
"Often it is impossible to visually distinguish cancer from normal brain… Surgically minimizing the number of cancer cells improves patient outcomes."
This technology is currently being investigated in a randomized controlled trial involving patients with gliomas.
It is the hope that this innovation will allow surgeons to detect cancer cells with the naked eye, in real time, while in surgery.
If surgeons are able to remove more cancer cells during surgery patient outcomes significantly improve and the risk of recurrence is reduced.