HOUSTON, March 6, 2007 -- High-temperature superconductors hold the key to a handheld tool for surgeons that promises to be more accurate, cost-effective and safer than existing methods for staging and treating various cancers, including breast cancer.
Audrius Brazdeikis, research assistant professor of physics in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Houston, and Quentin Pankhurst, a professor of physics from the University College of London (UCL), have developed a novel detection procedure combining nanotechnology and advanced magnetic sensing based on high-temperature superconductors. Their innovation will enable surgeons to more effectively locate the sentinel lymph node the first lymph node to which a tumors metastasizing cancer cells will drain.
The researchers produced an ultrasensitive magnetic probe to detect minuscule magnetic fields in the body. The probe is a supersensitive magnetometer an instrument used to track the presence of clinically introduced magnetic nanoparticles. During breast cancer surgery, a surgeon will inject a magnetic nanoparticle dye, already approved as an imaging contrast agent by the Food and Drug Administration, into the tumor or into tissues surrounding the tumor.
Receiving a $250,000 grant to be used from 2004 to 2006 from the United Kingdom Department of Trade and Industry under the UK-Texas Bioscience Collaboration Initiative, Brazdeikis and Pankhurst were required to show "proof of concept" by building a device and showing it worked. An ethics committee in the UK since has approved the detection procedure for a clinical trial of women undergoing breast cancer surgery at University College Hospital, London.
Dr. Michael Douek, a London surgeon who specializes in breast surgery and is a senior lecturer at UCL, is overseeing the trial and used the probe for the first time in surgery in December. Douek, who visited Houston recently in preparat
Contact: Lisa Merkl
University of Houston