High Tech Glasses Can Help Surgical Technologists Detect Cancer

A team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Arizona have teamed together to create a pair of high-tech glasses that can help surgical technologists visualize cancer cells during surgeries. When using these high-tech glasses, cancer cells will glow blue when viewed through the glasses.

The technology incorporates custom video, a head-mounted display, and a targeted molecular agent into a patient which attaches to the cancer cells and makes them glow. The technology was used during a surgery for the first time on February 10, 2014 and has great potential to improve patient outcome and enhance decision-making for health professionals.

Traditionally difficult to see, even under high-powered magnification, cancer cells can often go unnoticed. These glasses were designed to make it easier for surgeons to distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells; this ensures that no stray cancerous cells are left behind during tumor removal surgery.

Currently, surgeons are required to remove the tumor as well as any neighboring tissue that may or may not include cancer cells. The glasses could reduce the need for excess removal and additional surgical procedures. According to Julie Margenthaler, who performed the procedure in February, about 25% of breast cancer patients who have lumps removed require a second surgery. These glasses could reduce those statistics.