Cancer-detecting ‘smart needles’

Prototype of the smart Raman needle probe © University of Exeter/PA

A “smart needle” has been developed by scientists in the UK which could speed up cancer detection and diagnosis times.

Researchers believe the technology could be particularly helpful in diagnosing lymphoma, reducing patient anxiety as they await their results. At present, people with suspected lymphoma often have to provide a sample of cells, followed by a biopsy of the node to be carried out for a full diagnosis, a process which can be time consuming.

The new device uses a technique known as Raman spectroscopy to shine a low-power laser into the part of the body being inspected, with the potential to spot concerns within seconds, scientists from the University of Exeter say.

“The Raman smart needle can measure the molecular changes associated with disease in tissues and cells at the end of the needle,” said professor Nick Stone, project lead, from the University of Exeter. “Provided we can reach a lump or bump of interest with the needle tip, we should be able to assess if it is healthy or not.”