Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Real-time tissue analysis could guide brain tumor surgery

It doesn’t get much more complicated than brain surgery. Surgeons tasked with removing brain tumors have limited information available to help them make decisions about what tissue appears cancerous and how much to excise without damaging brain regions important to key functions such as movement and speech. But decisions about how much to cut might become easier in the near future: A study published today offers a possible way to discern which brain tissue is cancerous and guide surgeons in real time. The research, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses a technique formerly confined to analytical chemistry labs, called mass spectrometry, to make this determination right in the operating room. 

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