When it comes to cancer surgery today, tumours must be removed and specimens sent to pathologists for review. The problem is knowing how much or how little you have; cut too much and you may hurt the patient; cut too little and you will leave cancer behind. Only once there are satisfactory margins - a buffer zone of normal cells that indicates the tumour is completely resected - can the surgery be finished. To check with the pathologist was always time consuming.
Now, Dr. Zoltan Takats from the Imperial College London has created the iKnife system, an electric cautery with an attached mass spectrometer to sample the smoke let off by cauterized flesh to differentiate between cancerous and non-cancerous cells in real time.