A Novel Way of Discovering Cancerous Tissue in Brain Tumors

Neurosurgeons now have a new way to identify malignant cells during surgery and in real time.
Fabienne Lang

A big step for neurosurgeons, thanks to newly developed instruments at Tampere University in Finland. 

Neurosurgeons can now immediately, and more accurately, identify cancerous cells during surgery, leading to a more precise excision of the tumors. 


Up until now, neurosurgery techniques revolved around the use of electric knives, or diathermy blades - which use electrical current to cut biological tissue.

When this tissue is burned, the tissue molecules are dispersed in what is called surgical smoke. 

With the new technique created by researchers at Tampere University, this surgical smoke is directed into a new measuring system that identifies malignent tissue. 

A Novel Way of Discovering Cancerous Tissue in Brain Tumors
Flue gas created by an electric knife is fed directly into the measurement system. Source: Antti Roine/ Unversity of Tampere

"In current clinical practice, frozen section analysis is the gold standard for intraoperative tumour identification. In that method, a small sample of the tumour is given to a pathologist during surgery," said researcher Ilkka Haapala from Tampere University.

The pathologist, then, has to call the operating theater once they are done analyzing the sample. 

Faster, more accurate, and no extra equipment 

"Our new method offers both a promising way to identify malignant tissue in real time and the ability to study several samples from different points of the tumour," Haapala explained.

"The specific advantage of the equipment is that it can be connected to the instrumentation already present in neurosurgical operating theatres," continued Haapala.

The team studied 694 tissue samples from 28 brain tumors, in order to test a wide range of specimens and equipment, and promisingly, they discovered a high rate of accuracy. 

The tissues analyzed had an 83 percent accuracy level. However, when the settings of the study were more restricted; for example, when comparing malignancy tumors with control samples, the accuracy levels shot up to 94 percent. 

A promising discovery. 

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