Cancer probe chosen for top science discovery

Published: 19 March 2018

2017 Québec Science Discovery of the Year Award goes to the cancer-detection probe developed by Kevin Petrecca and Frédéric Leblond

Québec Science magazine’s 25-year tradition continues: every fall, a jury comprised of researchers and journalists selects the top 10 most impressive discoveries in Quebec in the past year and the public is asked to vote to select the winner. This year, a cancer-detection probe was chosen by nearly a third of approximately 4,400 votes cast in the 2017 Discovery of the Year contest.

When surgeons remove a tumour from a patient's brain, they do their best to remove all the cancer cells in the surrounding area, to prevent recurrence. Regardless of whether or not they are cancerous, many cells still cannot be identified microscopically. Once the surgical procedure is over, the surgeon puts the skull bone back in place and re-closes the scalp. The limitations associated with this procedure will soon be a thing of the past thanks to the cancer-detection probe developed jointly by researchers Dr. Kevin Petrecca at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and McGill University Health Centre and Frédéric Leblond at Polytechnique Montréal and the Research Centre at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, plus many contributors from these institutions, as well as the American company Emvision.

The size of a pen, the probe involves optical filter, sensors and laser technology. During surgery, the device probes the tissue in the brain to detect residual cancer cells in a fraction of a second. The device uses light to stimulate the cells and then the spectral signature is analyzed. With an almost 100% effectiveness, the probe also detects colon, skin and lung cancer cells present as metastasis in the brain.

“It is an honour for our work to be selected by voters to be the top science discovery of 2017. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this research. We are confident it will have a positive impact on the lives of people suffering from cancer,” stated Dr. Kevin Petrecca.

“The cancer-detection probe chosen by the people and Québec Science is the outcome of a cross-disciplinary effort that brought together a team of engineers and doctors. This was a productive collaboration resulting in technological innovations that will provide better care in the future for cancer patients. This recognition from the people that we are receiving today is great encouragement for us to continue with our work” added Frédéric Leblond.

“The possibility of recurrence haunts all cancer survivors and their families. This discovery gives them incredible hope. This is why this discovery particularly resonated with our readers, who are also impressed with the ingenuity of the device”, added Marie Lambert-Chan, Editor-in-Chief of Québec Science.

Other contributors in this discovery: Kelly Aubertin, Joannie Desroches, Marie-Christine Guiot, Andrée-Anne Grosset, Michael Jermyn, Jason Karamchandani, Wendy-Julie Madore, Eric Marple, Jeanne Mercier, Karl St-Arnaud, Mathias Strupler, Dominique Trudel and Kirk Urmey.

About Québec Science

Québec Science has a special connection between the research community and the general public. The magazine deals with all issues related to science and technology and provides a scientific perspective on major current issues. Published by Vélo Québec Éditions, the magazine has eight issues a year.

About The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital

The Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro – is a world-leading destination for brain research and advanced patient care. Since its founding in 1934 by renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Wilder Penfield, The Neuro has grown to be the largest specialized neuroscience research and clinical centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. The seamless integration of research, patient care, and training of the world’s top minds makes The Neuro uniquely positioned to have a significant impact on the understanding and treatment of nervous system disorders. The Montreal Neurological Institute is a McGill University research and teaching institute. The Montreal Neurological Hospital is part of the Neuroscience Mission of the McGill University Health Centre.

About Polytechnique Montréal

Founded in 1873, Polytechnique Montréal is one of Canada's largest engineering teaching and research institutions. It is the Québec leader for the scope of its engineering research activities. It is located on the campus of Université de Montreal, the largest French-language university campus in the Americas. With over 47,500 graduates, Polytechnique Montréal has educated 22% of the current members of the Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec. The institution offers more than 120 programs. Polytechnique has 260 professors and 8,300 students. It has an annual operating budget of $213 million, including a research budget of $75 million.

About the CRCHUM

The University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM) is one of the largest hospital-based research centres in North America. Our mission is to improve the health of adults through a continuum of research from basic science, to population health, to clinical research. More than 1,800 people work at the CRCHUM, including 450 researchers and close to 700 students and research trainees:

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