“I feel more like a butcher than a surgeon,” said a doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to Kirk Knight of SurgOptix, Inc. The surgeon was specifically referring to oncology surgeries in which the tumor has metastasized to surrounding tissue. Resecting the tumor surgically involves having to hack away at healthy tissue neighboring the tumor region. While there is plenty of research aimed at “curing” cancer, and even at real-time in vivo imaging—very little involves in vivo imaging during a surgical procedure. The goal of the SurgOptix system is to reduce the need for radical excisions of healthy tissue by lighting up tumor cells via fluorescence, thereby allowing for the removal of locally metastasized tumors.
This is where Kirk Knight and his team come in—they have helped develop a multispectral fluorescent imaging camera system: the SurgOptix T3-platform. The camera system has 3 CCDs that detect light from the visible spectrum, fluorescent light at the emission wavelength, and the excitation wavelengths. The system corrects for artifacts and gives a clear picture of the main tumor bulk and regional metastases to be excised. In fact, the images can be overlapped with one another to give an image your eyes can see with an overlay of the neon-shining cancer cells to be removed. Surgeons now have ability to specifically target and carefully carve out cancer cells without shoveling away healthy tissue. Before the start of the procedure, the patient is given a bolus of antibodies that attach to the cancer cells. A chemical is then applied locally that attaches to the antibodies (which are already anchored to the cancer cells) and enables the region to light up under the camera.