Most solid tumours can be successfully treated with the complete surgical excision of tumour tissue and an associated border of microscopically healthy tissue (the "tumour margin with clearances"). However, tumour margins are currently predominantly detected during surgery by sight and feel. This manual assessment by the surgeon could potentially risk partial tumour removal (allowing tumour regrowth) or excessive removal of healthy tissue (resulting in patient disfigurement or loss of organ function). The current lack of a widely applicable technology for the highly specific, real-time, definition and removal of tumour margins during surgery illustrates an as yet unmet clinical need.
Initial work by researchers at Newcastle University, in collaboration with clinical and industrial colleagues, aims to improve surgical accuracy through the combination of novel molecular photonics with advances in near-infrared imaging technology. This approach is currently being used to selectively demonstrate the presence of mouse colorectal tumour cells in a number of in vitro models. However, once fully developed it is anticipated that patient's tumour margins would be labelled prior to surgery. Subsequently these margins would be detect intraoperatively using a hand-held NIR sensor which will be integrated into a diathermy cutting blade. Improving surgical accuracy in this way could, it is hoped, greatly enhance a patient's post-operative prognosis.
I studied for my PhD at Newcastle University, where I developed novel electrochemical sensors for the real time detection of free radicals in cellular models of disease. In subsequent post-doctoral work I used these sensors to gain a greater understanding of the role that free radicals play in Motor Neuron Disease.
I was then employed as a Senior Scientist at Pharmagene (now Asterand), a biotechnology company based in Hertfordshire, UK. Here I carried out pre-clinical drug characterisation studies using human tissue.
In 2007, I was offered a permanent academic position within the Medical School at Newcastle University where I now run a research group. My group develops and applies novel optical and electrochemical sensor technologies to address unmet clinical need. This includes current studies which aim to incorporate novel photonics into technology that will improve intraoperative surgical accuracy during tumour removal. All of our research is driven and significantly advanced by well-established collaborations with clinical and industrial partners.
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