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Collaboration will help detect brain tumors for pets, humans

A collaboration will work together to develop an intraoperative imaging and sensing technology to better detect brain tumors

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Technology that can better detect and treat brain tumors is on its way, thanks to a collaboration between Colorado State University’s Flint Animal Cancer Center and Synaptive Medical Inc., a medical device and technology company based out of Toronto. Together, the two are working on developing an intraoperative imaging and sensing technology that will benefit both human and veterinary patients.

The research is led by Rebecca Packer, MS, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Neurology), an associate professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Colorado State University (CSU). She is the first neurosurgeon in the world to use Synaptive’s Raman spectroscopy research system to explore clinical biomarkers that can assist in surgical resection of tumors. The Raman spectroscopy system is an imaging technique that has been extensively used in other scientific disciplines to understand the chemical composition of tissue; it can also improve the preservation of normal brain tissue.

Dr. Packer’s research focuses on developing therapies for brain tumors while advancing precision medicine and innovation for humans and veterinary patients. Her goal is to develop accurate and less invasive neurosurgical techniques and therapies to treat brain tumors, in part by improving intraoperative imaging to more accurately detect and resect tumors during surgery

“There are many similarities between canine and human brain tumors,” Packer said. “As such, knowledge gained from clinical trials in our veterinary brain tumor patients may also help advance therapies for humans.”

Synaptive Medical is undertaking collaborative efforts to interconnect and optimize the secure flow of imaging and non-imaging data while integrating it into existing surgical technologies.

“Novel sensing technologies would support a surgeon when she is performing a procedure and when rapid clinical decisions need to be made,” said Cameron Piron, Synaptive’s president and co-founder. “The Flint Animal Cancer Center is among the best in the world for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pet animals, and this is a natural collaboration for us to advance both veterinary and human neurosurgery.”​

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With a donation from the Eldred Foundation, the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is the first to acquire Synaptive’s research system. CSU’s initial research goal is to confirm the specific spectral “fingerprint” of the various brain tumor types, and match that fingerprint with the microscopic appearance of the tumor and surrounding normal tissue.

“We expect that, ultimately, this technology will make the surgical resection of brain tumors safer and more accurate, but given the advancements in tumor vaccines and immunotherapies, it is reasonable to speculate that one day a device might even allow us to obtain a diagnosis and determine optimal patient-specific treatments without the need for invasive surgery,” Packer said.

Learn more about Packer’s work and research here.

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