The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has announced that a new ‘probe’ that detects prostate cancer could help make surgery more accurate.

The organisation stated researchers, funded by the NIHR Invention for Innovation (i4i) programme, are developing new imaging technology to pinpoint prostate tumours in the operating theatre.

The new project led by Imperial College London could ‘help surgeons to visualise tumours during keyhole surgery’, making the treatment more precise.

By combining robotics and medical imaging, they are aiming to develop a system that will highlight cancerous tissue in real-time on screen in the operating theatre. Th aim is tol enhance an existing surgical probe developed by Lightpoint Medical, to generate ‘visual heat maps’ of prostate tumours.

By combining robotics and medical imaging the researchers will ‘develop a system that will highlight cancerous tissue in real-time on screen in the operating theatre.’

“To the naked eye, cancerous tissue is virtually impossible to distinguish from healthy tissue, meaning surgeons are often left with difficult and risky decisions on how much to remove,” said lead researcher Professor Dan Elson, from IGHI’s Hamlyn Centre.

He continued to say that the “research aims to give surgeons the crucial information they need to guide decisions in the operating theatre, which we hope could one day transform the outlook for prostate cancer surgery by reducing side effects and the likelihood that the disease will return.”

If successful, in future this minimally invasive tool could mean that fewer men need to return to hospital for additional treatment, such as radiotherapy or cancer drugs, which can have a major impact on patients’ quality of life.

Residual cancerous tissue is found in up to 38% of men after surgery, leaving them at risk of recurrence. But removing too much tissue as a precaution can also lead to life-changing long-term side effects, such as incontinence and impotence.

The project aims to help solve these issues, building on the existing capabilities of Lightpoint Medical’s probe.