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NUS develops screening tool able to diagnose cancer immediately

National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a new tool that is able to diagnose cancerous and even pre-cancerous tissues immediately during endoscopy.

SINGAPORE: National University of Singapore (NUS) has developed a new tool that is able to diagnose cancerous and even pre-cancerous tissues immediately during endoscopy.

There are plans to commercialise the screening tool within the next five years.

By inserting a thin probe via the endoscopic tube, the instrument, called the In-Vivo Molecular Diagnostic System, will be able to detect if a tissue has cancer just by touching it.

The diagnosis takes only a second, compared to the usual three days for a biopsy.

Professor Ho Khek Yu, head of department of medicine at Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at NUS, said: "Current endoscopy allows us to recognise some abnormal findings in the stomach, but it doesn't allow us to make diagnosis real-time. (This) allows the operators to look at the tissue and also at the same time, make the diagnosis on the spot."

The instrument can be used to alert patients even before cancer cells start to emerge.

Prof Ho said: "Majority do not have cancers, but they are at risk of developing cancer. We can pick up those lesions because over… time, the hope is not to get cancers but rather, to actually detect the pre-cancers and early cancers early, so we can give the appropriate treatments."

This is especially useful as pre-cancer tissues look normal before the naked eye.

The tool is currently used in clinical trials and has been used on more than 500 patients so far.

Only gastrointestinal cancers -- such as stomach and liver cancers -- have been targeted as they are the most common and the second highest contributors to cancer deaths in Asia.

But the team hopes that the screening instrument would be expanded to other types of cancers. 

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