Tags: tiny | microscopes | cancer

Tiny Microscopes Diagnose Cancer

Thursday, 16 Aug 2012 05:42 PM

Scientists are increasingly using tiny futuristic microscopes – allowing medical specialists to peer inside a single living cell – to diagnose cancer in hard-to-reach areas of the body. But doctors who are using the groundbreaking new technology say standardized guidelines are needed to improve diagnostic accuracy.
In a new report, published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences, specialists at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center describe how they are using the micro-microscopes to search for evidence of cancer and other illnesses in the body.
Dr. Michel Kahaleh, chief of endoscopy at New York-Presbyterian, often threads a tiny scope into the narrow bile ducts that connect the liver to the small intestine to hunt for cancer. He also uses the device to explore the pancreatic duct as one of a few doctors in the country to use such technology in this way.
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But because these devices are so new, Kahaleh said specialists who use them may be interpreting what they see in different ways, based on new research he and his colleagues conducted at five U.S. medical institutions.
Kahaleh and his team recorded videos of what the microscopes detected in 25 patients with abnormally narrowed bile ducts, then showed them to physicians to gauge their interpretations. Their findings indicate there was "poor" to "fair" agreement on the clinical significance of what the physicians were viewing in the videos – whether what they saw represented cancer, simple inflammation, or a benign condition.
"That means physicians need to come up with a standard way of interpreting what the videos reveal in order to properly use this amazing technology," said Kahaleh. "We can see detail that was just unimaginable a decade ago – this breakthrough is born for the bile duct and those tiny tubes and complicated organ structures that no one has ever been able to visualize before.
“And when physicians are certain of what they are seeing, we will be able to greatly improve patient treatment, avoiding unnecessary surgery whenever possible."
Bile ducts transport bile, secreted by the liver to aid in the process of digestion, to the small intestine. But inflammatory disease, gallstones or tumors can cause the ducts to constrict, resulting in blockages that can lead to jaundice, cirrhosis, and other conditions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the tiny microscopic systems for use in the bile duct and pancreas two years ago. But Kahaleh’s study suggests more needs to be done to standardize their application and make the best use of the new technology.
"It is clear physicians need a standard by which to understand what they see, which will also need to involve more training," he said. "We can now see inside these tiny organs, but we just need to know exactly what we are looking at."
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Scientists are using tiny futuristic microscopes to hunt for cancer in hard-to-reach areas of the body.
Thursday, 16 Aug 2012 05:42 PM
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