Virtual Biopsy: Medicine’s Next Big Thing?


NEW YORK, N.Y. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— What if it was possible for doctors to diagnose brain cancer by using a focused beam of light? Think of it as a virtual biopsy. A New York neurosurgeon is the first in the United States to study a groundbreaking method of learning more about tumors.

A handheld medical tool, about the size of a pen, may someday revolutionize the way neurosurgeons perform biopsies to diagnose cancer. This Mt. Sinai neurosurgeon is testing the investigational device that emits a small beam of light. It’s called Raman spectroscopy.

“I placed this on the tissue, the tumor, and then there’s a laser emitted from the tip of this,” described Constantinos Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at Mt. Sinai Health System.

(Read Full Interview)

During brain surgery, the Raman signal detects vibrational differences between molecules. It’s connected to a computer that uses a program to analyze the composition of brain tissue and shows the difference between healthy and abnormal tissue.

“The concept is that if we can detect the tissue better we can really focus on resecting just the tissue and sparing the surrounding functional brain in patients,” shared Dr. Hadjipanayis.

Paving the way for a highly precise biopsy in the future.

Mt. Sinai is enrolling 50 patients with brain tumors for a clinical trial of the device. Right now, scientists will take measurements and collect information about different tumors. That data will be used to build a library of signals that correlate with tumor types.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4908

GLIOBLASTOMA BACKGROUND: Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord. Glioblastoma forms from cells called astrocytes that support nerve cells. Glioblastoma can occur at any age but tends to occur more often in older adults. It can cause worsening headaches, nausea, vomiting and seizures. Glioblastoma, also known as glioblastoma multiforme, can be very difficult to treat and a cure is often not possible. Treatments may slow progression of the cancer and reduce signs and symptoms.


DIAGNOSING GLIOBLASTOMA: There are multiple ways to diagnose glioblastoma. During a neurological exam, a doctor will ask about signs and symptoms. They may check vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Problems in one or more of these areas may provide clues about the part of the brain that could be affected by a brain tumor. Imaging tests can also help the doctor determine the location and size of the brain tumor. MRIs are often used to diagnose brain tumors, and it may be used along with specialized MRI imaging, such as functional MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Other imaging tests may include CT and positron emission tomography (PET).

A biopsy may be used to determine the level of someone’s glioblastoma by using a needle before surgery or during surgery to remove the glioblastoma, depending on the person’s particular situation and the location of the tumor. The sample of suspicious tissue is analyzed in a laboratory to determine the types of cells and their level of aggressiveness. Specialized tests of the tumor cells can tell a person’s doctor the types of mutations the cells have acquired. This gives the doctor clues about a person’s prognosis and may guide treatment options.


FUTURE OF GLIOBLASTOMA: Despite incremental advances in the therapeutic approach to glioblastoma, a 5‐year survival rate remains above 10 percent of those diagnosed.                                                    There have been substantial efforts exploring novel approaches in areas such as immunotherapy and precision oncology. This is driven by an enhanced understanding of the underlying molecular biology of glioblastoma and its interaction with the immune system. In contrast to other solid tumors,  biological factors such as the blood‐brain barrier and the unique tumor and immune microenvironment represent significant challenges in the development of novel therapies. Innovative clinical trial designs with biomarker‐enrichment strategies are needed to ultimately improve the outcome of patients with glioblastoma.  National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines emphasize the importance of clinical trials in the optimal management of patients with glioblastoma, encouraging participation where possible.






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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Constantinos Hadjipanayis, MD, PhD professor of neurosurgery and oncological sciences

Read the entire Q&A