Sniffing for cancer

New surgical tool offers surgeons speedier diagnosis of tissues that are cancerous

By Stephen Ornes, 12:15 PM August 2, 2013

A new electrical device called the iKnife can help surgeons know within seconds if the tissue they’re cutting is healthy or cancerous. This image shows liver tissue with cancer that has spread from another organ. The tissue on the left, which appears to be diagonal in this image, is cancerous. The tissue on the right is healthy. Credit: Science Translational Medicine/AAAS

Meet the iKnife: It’s a new tool that may help surgeons shorten the operating time for cancer patients. Within three seconds, it can tell whether cut tissue is healthy or cancerous, a new study finds. The same identification takes up to 30 minutes when done by a person, as it is now.

Any diseased cells left behind during cancer surgery can cause a new tumor, allowing the disease to spread. So surgeons face a balancing act. They try to cut out every last bit of diseased tissue, but no more...

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