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New research allows neurosurgeons to ‘see’ glioblastoma tumour cells

New imaging technology may allow neurosurgeons to distinguish between tumour tissue and normal brain tissue in real time

Tests are ongoing at University of Michigan Health system with a Stimulated Raman Scattering (SRS) microscope. The microscope produces different signals for proteins and lipids which can be assigned blue and green colours. This then allows tumour brain material to be distinguished from white brain matter.

Biopsies from glioblastoma (GBM) patients have revealed what researchers term ‘infiltrating’ cells using the technology. Discovering them is vital as they are often the cause of tumours reoccurring after surgery if they are not fully removed.

This technology has the potential to resolve a long-standing issue in cancer surgery, which is the need for faster and more effective methods to assess whether a tumor has been fully removed,” said Richard Conroy, Ph.D., Director of the Division of Applied Science & Technology at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging.

The ability to determine tumour margins without having to send samples to a pathologist could increase patient safety and improve outcomes by shortening the length of surgeries and reducing the number of cases where cancer cells are left behind.

So far, over 60 patient samples have been taken since June in this first clinical trial of the technology.