Cancer-detecting probe enters clinical trial

Thursday, 29 June, 2017

Cancer-detecting probe enters clinical trial

A fibre-optic cancer-detecting probe that is said to improve clinical outcomes for patients has entered clinical trials thanks to assistance from Flinders biomedical engineers and state government funding.

The probe, developed by Dr Erik Schartner and Professor Mark Hutchinson from the University of Adelaide’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, identifies cancerous tissue in real time by measuring pH levels of tissue. It is said to enable surgeons to precisely remove cancerous tissue while sparing the healthy tissue surrounding it.

University of Adelaide postdoctoral researcher Dr Erik Schartner said the pH level of tissue gives a really good indication of whether or not tissue is healthy or cancerous.

“The probe works by looking at the pH of tissue — whether it’s acidic or alkaline. It has an optical fibre fluorescent sensor at the tip, which samples an area only 200 microns in diameter (0.2 mm), with the probe responding in approximately 10 seconds.

“This is a significant improvement on current methods.”

The state government funding, from the Medical Technologies Program, has enabled the researchers to work with biomedical engineers from Flinders University’s Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP).

“We have done a lot of lab-based testing, but we were missing a prototype to demonstrate how the probe would function in an operating theatre. That is where the MDPP came in and we were very happy with their work.”

The MDPP connects medical innovators with leading biomedical engineers, providing them with 250 hours of research and development assistance, as well as market intelligence to take innovations from the laboratory to hospitals and homes, creating opportunities for local manufacturers.

Health Industries Minister Jack Snelling said the probe was an outstanding outcome born of the first collaboration between the Medical Device Partnering Program and the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics — both funded in part by the state government.

Flinders University Professor and MDPP Director Karen Reynolds said she believed in the benefits of connecting people, and giving inventors assistance early in the process.

“This project really shows what we are about — combining engineering, clinical and business expertise at the crucial moment to transform great ideas into real-world devices that change lives.”

University of Adelaide Professor and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics Mark Hutchinson said the project was truly multidisciplinary and had, “drawn in physicists, doctors, mathematicians, biomedical engineers and more”.

The State Government’s Medical Technologies Program, delivered through Flinders University’s Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP), is an innovative model for collaboration between inventors, researchers, end-users and commercial partners.

Image caption: The University of Adelaide's Dr Elizaveta Klantsataya with Flinders MDPP's Dr Aaron Mohtar. Image courtesy of Flinders University.

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