Though it has not yet been tested in the treatment of malignant mesothelioma tumors, a new laser system in development at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh may offer patients with the rare, asbestos-related disease another treatment option. The system helps surgeons to identify cancer cells more easily, and to remove them with far greater precision.
British Researchers Given 1.2M GBP to Develop Laser System
The innovative system being designed is generating significant interest among surgeons treating cancers of all types, including malignant mesothelioma. Though to date it has only been tested in colon cancer surgery, and its next tests will focus on brain cancer, the ability to see cancer cells in better resolution and to avoid damaging healthy cells warranted a £1.2m grant being awarded to Professor Jonathan Shephard by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to facilitate further development.
The system is distinguished by its ultrafast lasers, which deliver pulses that are only one trillionth of a second long. According to Professor Shephard, the brevity of the pulses is what protects the surrounding tissue. “We proved in the lab that our laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that restricts damage to the surrounding, healthy cells – within the width of a human hair,” he explains. “Because the laser pulses are so short, there is no time for heat to burn the surrounding tissue, which is what happens with current surgical tools.
Precision is the Key to Removal of Mesothelioma Tumors
As is true of the removal of any type of cancer, the challenge of removing mesothelioma tumors lies in doing so without damaging the vital organs surrounding them. In discussing the potential for his system, Professor Shephard said, “The most important principle of any cancer surgery is to ensure that all cancer cells are removed; failure to do so will result in the cancer coming back. This is an ultimate test of precision, even microscopic loss of healthy tissue and damage to nearby vital structures can have severe functional consequences and a huge impact on quality of life.” Shephard’s team will be further refining his system, including working towards the development of an optical fiber-based system.
Cancer technology is advancing quickly, and that offers great hope for patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma. For information on where to find the most innovative care, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net today at 1-800-692-8608.