Surgery is an important part of brain tumor treatment, though the difficulties in accessing and distinguishing tumor cells significantly reduces its effect on a patient's prognosis. Conventionally, an MRI scan is performed before or intermittently during surgery and the resulting image is used for guidance. However, as the brain tissue shifts during the procedure, a degree of uncertainty regarding the boundaries of the tumor is introduced and the surgeon is forced to "eyeball" it (which is understandably not ideal).
Recently, a novel technique was developed that allows for quick and easy visualization of tumor tissue. By using SRS (stimulated Raman scattering) microscopy, these researchers found a convenient, real-time diagnostic tool with a reported accuracy equal to current diagnosis methods. With this tool in their arsenal, surgeons would be able to have more confidence that they were removing as much of the tumor as possible?a critical factor in the prognosis of the patient.
Along the same lines, another group of researchers has been working for the last few years to solve the problem of real-time tumor visualization during surgery. Drawing their inspiration from (strangely) the use of maggots to remove dead tissue, they developed a robotic device
that can be used to remotely destroy tumor tissue. More importantly, this compact device will be able to function within an MRI machine during imaging.
It will be interesting to follow these new techniques as they develop.