Detecting cancer faster with a pen and smartphone camera diagnostics

Two newly developed devices promise to radically improve cancer detection–the first during surgery, and the second for the earliest signs of the jaundice symptoms of pancreatic cancer with applicability to both telehealth and telemedicine.

  • The MasSpec Pen is a mass spectrometry device (not the pen in the picture) which is intended to be used during surgery to better determine the boundary between cancerous and normal tissue. Current technology uses frozen section analysis, which takes about 30 minutes (in which the surgeons and sedated patient wait for the pathologist’s results) and isn’t always accurate in answering the question ‘is it all out?’ Using mass spectrometry analysis of a drop of water after three seconds of tissue contact, MasSpec Pen returns results in about 10 seconds with 96 percent accuracy in a test of 253 cancer patients, as well as detecting cancer in marginal regions between normal and cancer tissues that presented mixed cellular composition. It was tested on breast, lung, thyroid, and ovary cancerous and normal tissue. The team expects to start testing the new technology during oncologic surgeries in 2018. Futurity, Science Translational Medicine.
  • Over at the University of Washington’s Ubiquitous Computing Lab, researchers there expanded their jaundice detection system for babies, BiliCam, to BiliScreen, which examines the eyes for the earliest sign of jaundice. Jaundice is an early sign of pancreatic cancer as well as hepatitis and related diseases, and is conventionally screened through a professionally-administered blood test and analysis. The BiliScreen app is used with a smartphone camera and a 3D printed box that controls the eye’s exposure to light. It correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time, compared to the blood test currently used. As a non-invasive test, it can be used repeatedly for high-risk individuals and remotely. Futurity, paper (PDF, 26 pages) presented September 13 at Ubicomp 2017, the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing.

Hat tip on both to former Ireland Editor Toni Bunting.