Intraoperative brain cancer detection with Raman spectroscopy in humans

Intraoperative brain cancer detection with Raman spectroscopy in humans

Hiren Banerjee1, Mukesh Verma2

1Department of Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Elizabeth City State University/University of North Carolina, Elizabeth City, NC 27909, USA; 2Methods and Technologies Branch, Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute (NCI), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Rockville, MD 20850, USA

Correspondence to: Hiren Banerjee, MD, PhD. Department of Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Campus Box 930, Elizabeth City State University/University of North Carolina, 1704 Weeksville Road, Elizabeth City, NC 27909, USA. Email:

Submitted Sep 15, 2015. Accepted for publication Sep 30, 2015.

doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2015.11.16

The early cancer detection provides us an opportunity to select proper treatment and follow up survival. Molecular events occurring in tumors frequently constitute early events of carcinogenesis and can be detected much before clinical cancer diagnosis. On several occasions, few invasive cells remain after brain surgery in patients with brain cancer and there is a need for such tools which can detect these invasive cells. Jermyn et al. (1) have developed a hand held contact Raman Spectroscopy probe technique which can differentiate normal and invasive cancer cells in the brain. The commentary is very timely and once this technique is widely applied, a number of patients can survive free of brain cancer. What strikes the most about this technology is its high sensitivity (93%) and specificity (91%). The specificity and sensitivity of the sample labels provided by the surgeons after visual inspection was 73% and 86%, respectively. Surgeons were not given any information about the acquired Raman spectra during the resection procedure. Similarly pathologists were not informed about the spectra history when they did histopathological exams. To avoid any ambient light sources, the background reference measurement was subtracted from the respective spectrum and then normalized. During in vivo imaging although neuronavigation technologies were used but they were used for qualitative purposes only. Thus, the discrepancies associated with neuronavigation system were minimized. Overall, the research design was very appropriate to evaluate the potential of Raman spectroscopy to distinguish brain cancer from normal brain in grade 2 to 4 gliomas.

Successful treatment of cancer depends on appropriate therapy and also on improving methods and technologies to determine the disease risk and its early detection so that it can be treated more effectively. Although imaging technologies exist, but they are expensive, especially while using for screening an asymptomatic population. The technology proposed here has wide applications and is less expensive.

No exogenous compound is used in Raman spectroscopy to obtain optical contrast. Future potential improvements in this technology are very well described in the article indicating that Raman spectroscopy will set up the stage for clinical trials to test its efficacy in early glioma detection with standard-of-care technology.




Provenance: This is a Guest Editorial commissioned by Section Editor Zhide Hu, MD (Department of Laboratory Medicine, General Hospital of Ji’nan Military Region, Ji’nan, China).

Conflicts of Interest: The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


  1. Jermyn M, Mok K, Mercier J, et al. Intraoperative brain cancer detection with Raman spectroscopy in humans. Sci Transl Med 2015;7:274ra19.
Cite this article as: Banerjee H, Verma M. Intraoperative brain cancer detection with Raman spectroscopy in humans. Ann Transl Med 2016;4(4):68. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2305-5839.2015.11.16