Cancer surgery is tough. Even with high-powered microscopes, surgeons have a very difficult time distinguishing cancer cells from healthy cells. But these new glasses developed by Washington University, St. Louis could change all that.
Put simply, the glasses make cancer cells glow blue, after the patient is injected with a special dye that targets the cancer cells. Because cancer is so notoriously difficult to spot, it's not uncommon for patients to require a second surgery to cut out the cancer that the surgeon missed the first time around. Doctors hope these glasses will fix all that. "Imagine what it would mean if these glasses eliminated the need for follow-up surgery and the associated pain, inconvenience and anxiety," said Dr. Julie Margenthaler, a breast surgeon at WashU.
Sight isn't the only sense that scientists are hoping might solve the second surgery problem. Last year, Dr. Zoltan Takats invented the so-called iKnife system—essentially, a sophisticated scalpel equipped with a mass spectrometer that literally sniffs out cancer cells. While WashU's glasses are too new to be named, the iKnife is already being used to save lives in the United Kingdom. And hey, when it comes to tools to fight cancer, we'll take all we can get. [WashU]