Scientists are developing a laser system to remove cancer without harming healthy tissues UK news


Scientists are developing a new laser system that can revolutionize the treatment of cancer and help surgeons remove it without damaging healthy tissue.

Experts at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are working on a system based on ultrafast picosecond lasers that deliver energy in a series of pulses that are a trillionth of a second long.

Professor Jonathan Shephard, who leads the project, received £ 1.2 million from the Research Council for Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPSRC) to develop the treatment.

He said the system had proven successful in colorectal cancers in the laboratory.

“We have laboratory proven that our laser system can remove cancer cells in a way that limits damage to surrounding healthy cells – within the width of a human hair,” he said.

Prof. Shephard explained that this happens because the laser pulses are so short and there is no time for heat to burn the surrounding tissue, which is the case with current surgical instruments.

He added, “We are building on our understanding of lasers in colorectal cancer surgery for clinical use and are working to adapt them to brain, head and neck cancers where they could be of tremendous benefit to patients.”

“The most important principle of any cancer surgery is to make sure that all cancer cells are removed. Otherwise, the cancer will return.”

He added that even the microscopic loss of healthy tissue can have serious consequences, including compromising quality of life.

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Scientists will also focus on developing a flexible fiberglass-based system that can attack and remove cancer cells two orders of magnitude smaller than current technology.

Professor David Jayne, Consultant Surgeon at Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust, said, “Surgical lasers are opening up exciting new approaches to cancer surgery.

“The precision of a laser combined with imaging to accurately differentiate cancer and normal tissue will greatly improve surgeons’ ability to completely remove cancers with minimal side effects to patients.”

The team will work on developing the system for the next three years.

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