Currently, up to 40 percent of patients undergoing breast-conserving surgery to treat cancer require re-operation because of a failure to remove all of the cancerous tissue during the initial operation. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) researchers, however, have successfully tested an innovative tissue imaging approach that accurately distinguishes cancerous breast tissue from normal breast tissue and precisely defines the margins between the two – an advance that could significantly decrease the need for follow-up surgery.
The tool the researchers used for their study is called desorption electrospray ionization (DESI) mass spectrometry imaging, a technology that allows physicians and researchers to promptly evaluate human tissue. It works by electrically charging (ionizing) molecules in a tissue sample through the application of a microscopic stream of solvent. The mass of these ionized molecules is then measured and their distribution within the tissue is mapped.