Scientists have discovered that a knife-like surgical device already in use to treat other forms of cancer can also be used in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer in mere seconds.
The revolutionary device, called iKnife, “smells tumors” and will help thousands of women get rapid results and eschew weeks of anxiety. The expedited result will also help in the early treatment of cancer patients.
The breakthrough came from experts at the Imperial College London and their findings were published in the journal Cancer.
“The iKnife reliably diagnosed endometrial cancer in seconds, with a diagnostic accuracy of 89%, minimizing the current delays for women whilst awaiting a histopathological diagnosis,” the team of researchers wrote in the paper. “The findings presented in this study can pave the way for new diagnostic pathways.”
For the study, the researchers collected biopsy tissue samples from 150 women with suspected uterine cancer. Once the tissue sample is collected from the uterus for testing, iKnife uses electrical signals to analyze the smoke that is released when the biopsy tissue is vaporized. Based on its results, the device differentiates between cancerous and healthy tissue.
The results from the iKnife were compared with current diagnosis methods.
“With its high diagnostic accuracy of 89% and positive predictive value of 94%, one could immediately reassure the person of the very low likelihood of having cancer if the iKnife result is negative and expedite further tests and scans and treatment for people whose biopsies indicate the presence of cancer. This could happen whilst awaiting confirmation from standard pathology, which can take up to two weeks,” Prof Sadaf Ghaem-Maghami, lead researcher at Imperial College London, said, reported The Guardian.
Only 10% of women who get their biopsies, suspecting womb cancer, are actually found to have it, as per the outlet. Quick diagnosis with iKnife will provide much-needed relief to the 90% of women, who don’t have the disease.
“Waiting for test results is stressful – especially if that test is to find out whether or not you have cancer. When you hear that the ‘c’ word is even a possibility, the days can’t pass quickly enough until a clinician gives you the all clear,” Athena Lamnisos, the chief executive of the Eve Appeal cancer charity, which funded the research, said. “Womb cancer has one ‘red flag’ symptom of postmenopausal bleeding that should always get checked out on a two-week referral from your GP. To wait a further two weeks for the results can be really hard for patients.
The research team now plans to undertake a large-scale clinical trial to make diagnosis using iKnife a common practice in the field.
“The iKnife has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we manage people seen in the rapid-access clinics with significant abnormal vaginal bleeding who have been referred for potential diagnosis of endometrial cancer,” Ghaem-Maghami said.