University of Texas’ new MasSpec Pen identifies cancer within seconds


A research team from the University of Texas in the US has developed a new handheld device MasSpec Pen, which accurately identifies cancerous tissue during surgery.

The device is said to detect cancer in approximately ten seconds and is reportedly more than 150 times faster than frozen section analysis.

The new tool is expected to aid improvement in cancer treatment and minimise chances of recurrence by offering surgeons precise diagnostic information.

When evaluating tissue removed from 253 patients, the device demonstrated more than 96% accuracy during its ten-second diagnosis.

MasSpec Pen is also said to have detected cancer in marginal regions between normal and malignant tissues that showed mixed cellular composition.

Project’s collaborator and Baylor College of Medicine endocrine surgery head James Suliburk said: “Anytime we can offer the patient a more precise surgery, a quicker surgery or a safer surgery, that’s something we want to do.

"The device demonstrated more than 96% accuracy during its ten-second diagnosis."

“This technology does all three. It allows us to be much more precise in what tissue we remove and what we leave behind.”

Cells are extracted and analysed with MasSpec Pen to obtain a molecular fingerprint of the tissue that is later assessed by a statistical classifier software.

The software has been trained on a database of molecular fingerprints obtained from the normal and cancerous tissue samples of the 253 participants, including those with breast, lung, thyroid and ovarian cancer.

The university has filed US patent applications for the new technology, with plans to initiate its testing during oncologic surgeries next year.


Image: The MasSpec Pen rapidly and accurately detects cancer in humans during surgery. Photo: courtesy of the University of Texas in Austin, US.