Virtual Biopsy: Medicine’s next big thing?

Discovering new ways to diagnose brain cancer
Discovering new ways to diagnose brain cancer

What if it was possible for doctors to diagnose brain cancer by using a focused beam of light? Think of it as a virtual biopsy. A New York neurosurgeon is the first in the United States to study a groundbreaking method of learning more about tumors.

A handheld medical tool, about the size of a pen, may someday revolutionize the way neurosurgeons perform biopsies to diagnose cancer. This Mt. Sinai neurosurgeon is testing the investigational device that emits a small beam of light. It’s called Raman spectroscopy.

“I placed this on the tissue, the tumor, and then there’s a laser emitted from the tip of this,” described Dr. Constantinos Hadjipanayis, a neurosurgeon at Mt. Sinai Health System.

During brain surgery, the Raman signal detects vibrational differences between molecules. It’s connected to a computer that uses a program to analyze the composition of brain tissue and shows the difference between healthy and abnormal tissue.

“The concept is that if we can detect the tissue better we can really focus on resecting just the tissue and sparing the surrounding functional brain in patients,” said Hadjipanayis.

Paving the way for a highly precise biopsy in the future.

Mt. Sinai is enrolling 50 patients with brain tumors for a clinical trial of the device. Right now, scientists will take measurements and collect information about different tumors. That data will be used to build a library of signals that correlate with tumor types.