Strand Lead: Dr Philip Manning
The Biomedical Engineering strand of Newcastle University’s Molecular Pathology Node, in collaboration with our industrial partner (Reece Innovation) is focussed on developing a new, NIR-based hand held sensor for the intraoperative detection of labelled tumour cells. Once integrated into a surgeon’s scalpel and in combination with augmented reality devices (eg Google Glass) this technology will enable surgeons to visualise labelled tumour cells in real-time during an operation. The anticipated improvement in surgical precision will, it is hoped, reduce the risk of tumour recurrence and the need for patients to undergo further treatment.
Approximately 40% of solid tumours can be successfully treated following the complete surgical removal of cancerous tissue with a border of healthy tissue (the “tumour margin with clearances”). Tumour margins are currently predominantly detected by the surgeon during an operation using sight and feel. The risk of partial tumour removal (allowing tumour regrowth) or excessive removal of healthy tissue (resulting in patient disfigurement or loss of organ function) based on this manual assessment is considerable. Therefore, an accurate method for the real-time identification of tumour margins during surgery is required to address this as yet unmet clinical need.
The proposed solution:
Near-infrared (NIR) intraoperative fluorescence imaging offers the potential to selectively identify tumour cells during surgery. Prior to detection, cancer cells must first be selectively labelled with a ‘contrast reagent’. This consists of an antibody which binds to a protein (urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR)) that is present in many common cancer cells (eg bowel, breast and skin) but not in health tissue. This antibody is bound to a fluorescent dye that can be detected by NIR imaging equipment. In this way the border between cancerous (labelled) and health (unlabelled) cells can be clearly defined.
The project is based on a collaboration between the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in Newcastle University (Dr Philip Manning), the Institute of Cellular Medicine in Newcastle University (Professor Anthony O’Neill and Dr Kelvin Kwa) as well as Reece Innovation which is based in Newcastle upon Tyne (Dr James Martin and Dr Reza Tamadoni).