Surgeons develop pioneering technique to identify bone and soft tissue tumours

Surgeons in Newcastle have become the first in Europe to use a pioneering technique to help identify sarcomas during surgery.

Sarcomas are cancers affecting any part of the body, including the muscle, bone, tendons, blood vessels and fatty tissues. Most commonly they affect the arms, legs and trunk and they account for around 1% of all cancers.

Surgery to remove a bone or soft tissue tumour involves removing the tumour and some of the surrounding healthy tissue; this is to allow any cancer cells that are not visible to the naked eye to be removed with the tumour, which can reduce the chance of the tumour coming back. 

In an effort to reduce the amount of healthy tissue that needs to be removed a team based at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle are using a dye which makes cancerous tissue glow green using a specially developed infrared camera.

Diane Rudd

Diane Rudd, 55 from Guisborough was one of the first patients to be treated using the new technique. Diane, mum to Michael, 29 and Kayleigh, 26 was diagnosed with pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcoma earlier this year she said: “I’ve had a lump in my right arm for around four years, which was initially thought to be a herniated muscle. The lump continued to grow and after a returning from a cruise to Alaska with my husband Jeff, it had become so painful I had to go back to see my GP.”

Diane’s GP referred her for a scan which showed she had a 7cm tumour in the top of her arm and a biopsy at the Freeman Hospital confirmed that the tumour was cancerous. Diane explains: “I knew as soon as I was referred to the Freeman that it must be serious but I never imagined that I would be told I had cancer.

“Everything since then has happened really quickly, Mr Rankin explained that the tumour was near the artery and nerves but that he could use the dye to show exactly where the cancerous tissue was.”

Following the operation to remove her tumour Diane is recovering well, she continues: “I was so relieved when I woke up in recovery to find I had feeling in my arm and could still move all of my fingers, it is 100% better than I thought it would be. Once my scars are healed I’ll start radiotherapy and then I’m looking forward to living and enjoying my life. 

“Everyone has taken such good care of me, I couldn’t have been in better hands, they have saved my life, I don’t know how you can say thank you for that.”

Mr Kenneth Rankin

Mr Kenneth Rankin, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals is leading the project. He said: “This dye has been used in other cancer types such as breast and bowel cancer, but our patients are the first in Europe to undergo open sarcoma surgery using this dye.”

“We inject the dye the afternoon before surgery and using the Spy PHI special handheld infrared camera from Stryker we are able to see the tumour glow during surgery. We are still in the early stages of evaluating this technology however in the long term we hope this technique will allow us to safely take less healthy tissue from patients during surgery and preserve function for our sarcoma patients without compromising their cancer outcome.”

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