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Dr. Samuel Achilefu Creates High Tech Cancer-Spotting Goggles

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In the world’s fight against cancer, new technology is a welcome development. The same is to be said of the high tech Cancer-Spotting Goggles invented by Dr. Samuel Achilefu, a Nigerian, a professor of Radiology, Biomedical Engineering, Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and Director of Optical Radiology Lab (ORL) at Washington University in St. Louis. He with a team of scientist at the same school created a pair of high-tech glasses that helps surgeons see tumours glowing under infrared light. These cancer-spotting goggles help in the search of finding every last cancer cell as the act of distinguishing diseased tissues from the healthy can be difficult.

Here is how these high-tech goggles are used in the surgery room: First, doctors inject a trace amount of an infrared fluorescent dye into the patient’s bloodstream. The dye has peptide, a small protein that finds out and attaches itself to cancer cells. These cancer cells then give off light at a wavelength that cannot be seen by the ordinary human eye but can be detected by these spotting goggles which are worn by surgeons.

Dr. Samuel Achilefu unveiled these special goggles in a surgery room at Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Siteman Cancer on the 10th of February this year. Following its success, the new goggle technology has been tried on patients suffering from skin and breast cancer. Dr. Achilefu is confident that the goggles can be used for different types of cancer. The dye injected into the bloodstream has proven to attach to breast, prostate, lung, colon, and pancreatic cancers among others. It has also been shown to discover pre-cancerous cells.

With these goggles, instant tumour imaging is brought to the operating room and makes the surgical removal of these dead cancer cells easy to detect and fast to remove. Achilefu has been advised to make the goggles lighter and to have wireless connectivity. Once other technical improvements have been made, he hopes to bring the goggles to the market within two years.

For Achilefu, it is about improving patients’ outcome and enhancing decision making for health care professionals. He said, “Our goal is to make sure no cancer is left behind.”

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