Cancer screening

New imaging technology could lessen brain surgery risks

Photo of a brain surgery using the imaging needle from this study.
The "smart needle" in use during neurosurgery. Photo: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Australia

Researchers have developed a hair-thin needle with a tiny camera and a warning system to more safely navigate during brain surgery, according to a feasibility study published in Science Advances Wednesday.

Why it matters: Current use of MRI imaging to assist with brain needle surgeries does not have the resolution to detect small blood vessels, making the risk higher that the neurosurgeon could cause a brain bleed when conducting a biopsy. This new needle — tested successfully so far on 11 patients — shows up to 98% accuracy in detecting those blood vessels. Brain bleeds can cause complications, which can be fatal.

New breast cancer gene analysis aims to boost precision medicine

Photo of a breast cancer survivor at a Komen walk surrounded by family members in pink
A breast cancer survivor and her family at a 2016 Komen Race for the Cure. Photo: Mindy Schauer/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

In an effort to clear up uncertain breast cancer diagnoses involving mutations of a key gene, known as BRCA1, a team of scientists have used gene editing technology to create and analyze thousands of variations to help determine which are benign or not, per a new study published in Nature on Wednesday.

Why it matters: There's been a lot of research on BRCA1 gene mutations, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancers, but the threat posed by each variant is not always known. This leads to confusion for patients regarding if they should take serious prophylactic measures such as a double mastectomy and/or removal of ovaries to prevent cancer, as actress Angelina Jolie did when she found she had the mutation.

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