Novel Pen-Like Device Distinguishes Between Tumor, Healthy Tissue

Mass spectrometry device rapidly identifies molecular profile of cancerous tissue.

A pen-like device is able to analyze human tissue samples in real-time to determine whether it is cancerous, according to a recent study.

Standard methods for histopathologic tissue diagnosis can be challenging and time-intensive, delaying decision-making. To create a more rapid and nondestructive option, scientists developed a biocompatible handheld mass spectrometry device called MasSpec Pen.

This automated device enables controlled delivery of a discrete water droplet to a tissue surface for extraction of biomolecules.

In a study published in Science Translational Medicine, investigators conducted an ex vivo molecular analysis of 20 human cancer thin tissue sections and 253 human patient tissue samples using the MasSpec Pen. The samples included normal and cancerous tissues from the breast, lung, thyroid, and ovary.

The findings showed the obtained mass spectra presented rich molecular profiles characterized by metabolites, lipids, and proteins.

Statistical classifiers built from the histologically validated molecular database allowed cancer prediction with high sensitivity (96.4%), specificity (96.25), and overall accuracy (96.3%), as well as prediction of benign and malignant thyroid tumors and different histologic subtypes of lung cancer.

Furthermore, the classifier enabled a more accurate diagnosis of cancer in marginal tumor areas with mixed histologic composition. Using mouse models with tumors, the investigators demonstrated the MasSpec Pen was well suited during surgical operations.

“MasSpec Pen could potentially be used as a clinical and intraoperative technology for ex vivo and in vivo cancer diagnosis,” the authors concluded.