Neurosurgeons at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust will trial a high-tech tissue scanner to speed up treatment for patients with brain tumours.
SamanTree Medical, a member of the Trust’s Innovation Pop Up, has developed a confocal microscope for the real-time, high-resolution imaging of fresh surface tissue. The Histolog Scanner helps clinicians to confirm diagnoses during operations and remove all cancerous tissue with confidence, protecting healthy tissue and avoiding the need for invasive follow-up procedures.
The current practice is to send tissue samples taken during surgery for what is called frozen-section analysis at a pathology lab, which can take up to 90 minutes with the patient asleep on the operating table. The ultrafast technology accelerates the imaging process to less than a minute and is based on a breakthrough in confocal microscopy that allows tissue specimens of up to 20cm² to be scanned.
It is now being evaluated by neurosurgeons and pathologists at Leeds, with interest also from the pancreatic surgery and interventional radiology groups.
Toby Hamblin, UK strategic consultant at SamanTree, said: “A decision can be made in the operating theatre about whether or not there is cancer in the tissue. Instead of waiting for 90 minutes, they can find out in a minute. You can see the benefit for patients, surgeons, pathologists and hospitals. There is a lot of motivation to adopt this technology.”
The Leeds evaluation will assess the correlation between current practice and the ability of the scanner to show the same results during surgery. It will be the first time the scanner has been used for brain tumour surgery.
The scanner is also being evaluated by London teaching hospitals for other specialties including lung, breast and prostate cancer. It is in use in hospitals in Switzerland, where the company is headquartered.
Founded in 2014, SamanTree is a spin-off from the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a leading global research institute and university specialising in natural sciences and engineering. The company is led by medical device entrepreneur Bastien Rachet, co-founder and chief executive, and advanced microscopy expert Etienne Shaffer, co-founder and chief technology officer. SamanTree obtained a CE mark for the Histolog Scanner in 2016 and completed a multi-million pound series A fundraising round in 2019 to finance its expansion.
Professor David Brettle, chief scientific officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and founder of the Innovation Pop Up, said: “Every year, more than 12,000 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour in the UK and 150 new patients seek treatment at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which has been recognised as a centre of excellence for patient care.
“We are delighted that a cutting-edge company like SamanTree has joined our Pop Up to help speed up treatment for patients with brain tumours. Leeds represents one of Europe’s largest medical, academic and industrial establishments and has a very supportive ecosystem for health tech innovators. It is the ideal environment for spreading innovation in healthcare.”