The invention of Frederic Leblond, profes-sor in Engineering Physics at Polytechnique Montreal, and DKevin Petrecca, head of neurosurgery department of the Institute and the Montreal Neurological Hospital, could revolutionize the treatment of brain cancer, and above , significantly increase the life expectancy of those who have it. And who knows, maybe even save some patients previously convicted.
Scientists have developed a probe that allows for the first time to distinguish cancer cells from healthy cells during brain surgery.
“All my patients die. It’s hard, but it’s my reality. ”
Each year, the DKevin Petrecca operates some 180 people with incurable brain cancer. Its mission is not to save them. They received a death sentence along their diagnosis.
His goal is more modest: to prolong their lives to the fullest, while offering them the best quality of life possible.
“My patients are often young. And their quality of life is affected by the disease. They consult because they have headaches because they have vision problems, memory or language. ”
– The DKevin Petrecca
Life expectancy after a brain cancer diagnosis is 14 months, even with treatment. This varies depending on the stage of the disease. “But a good surgery can extend this period a lot,” said DPetrecca. Its new tool could triple or quadruple, he believes.
We meet the specialist with his accomplice recent years, the engineer and physicist Frederic Leblond, in an office of the Neurological Hospital University Street, Montreal.
The windows offer an enviable view of the football field of the Percival Molson Stadium, the Alouettes base camp. Kevin Petrecca no looks. His entire focus is on a white board on which numbers and symbols written in big black pencil are divided into two columns.
He does not want the table and its contents appear in the photo that the photographer oftakes him. Mr. Leblond first thought was a joke, but his colleague’s serious.
“It demonstrates the difference between a cancer cell and a healthy cell,” says the doctor watching his calculations knowingly.
The subject is obsessed. It fascinates Frederic Leblond.
It was he who contacted the neurosurgeon few years ago to offer him to team. The engineer from Rivière-du-Loup was working in the United States, but he wanted to return to Quebec.
After extensive studies in fundamental physics – he leaned on the origin of the Big Bang and string theory (the same search field that the character of Sheldon Cooper in popular American seriesTheory) – it worked for some years to develop tools to help the work of neurosurgeons and improve the treatment of brain cancer.
Why the brain? “I’ve always been attracted to the most complicated problems. And the brain is com-plained. If technology works for the brain, there is no reason why it will not work for another organ. And after theoretical physics, I wanted to do something more concrete, “adds Frédéric Leblond with some self-mockery.
He succeeded. His invention could revolutionize the world of oncology.
Recently, the DPetrecca presented probe 200 neurosurgeons at a conference in the United States.
“The jaw fell them. They all wanted to know where they could buy it. ”
– The DKevin Petrecca
For the common man, the development of a single operating system – one more – not enough to lift the crowds. And yet.
It will change the lives of neurosurgeons and especially their patients, which are 3000 to be diagnosed with brain cancer in Canada each year.
How ? Currently, it is a magnetic resonance imaging that allows doctors to distinguish between areas of the brain that are affected by cancer. But after opening the skull, the diseased cells and healthy cells are identical to the naked eye. During the operation, the physician must rely on the image captured previously to remove the infected parts of the brain cancer. Impossible to detect without a doubt affected the cells around the tumor.
“The fear of any surgeon is to remove part of the brain that was not sick and leave the patient with permanent sequelae, or to not remove everything, and the cancer comes back. Because it will come back, “says DPetrecca. He lived with his two patients. Each time, he says, it is difficult.
With the probe, the surgeon can now accurately detect almost all invasive cancer cells in real time during the ope-ration. And it’s simple. They point a laser to the brain and the tool indicates whether a particular portion of the brain is sick or not.
The device was used on 70 patients. Accuracy close to 100%, says Frederic Leblond. Several patent applications have been filed for marketing. Mr. Leblond now working to transfer technology to the treatment of prostate cancer.
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