| Category: Success stories

Smart tissue monitor helps surgeons identify cancer cells

Reliable tissue identification is one of the biggest challenges faced by cancer surgery. As a solution to this problem, Marginum, a health technology start-up from Kuopio, has developed a smart tissue monitor, which enables identifying whether a tissue removed by a surgeon was healthy or cancerous already during an operation.

– We aim to introduce our product to the international market immediately, as it provides a solution to a global problem, explains Samu Lehtonen, the company’s CEO and co-founder.

The smart tissue monitor will be particularly utilised in cancer surgery, and its first applications will include malignant tumours in the glial cells in the brain known as gliomas. Later, the device is expected to also bring benefits to the surgical treatment of liver, colorectal and ovarian cancer, among others.

Currently, postoperative patients are already given a drug that accumulates fluorescent markers in the cancer cell. During the surgery, the tissues are illuminated with a light that causes the fluorescent marker to glow, making it easier to identify the cancerous tissue. 

However, the problem is that cancerous tissue grows diffusely. Visual identification of tissues may be obstructed by factors such as blood and tissue debris. Cancerous tissue may also be hidden from sight, in a so-called ‘blind spot’. This may lead to a failure to remove all the cancerous tissue and cause damage to healthy tissue, therefore undermining the patient’s treatment response.

The smart tissue monitor developed by Marginum is attached to a suction tube which transports surgical waste. The device analyses the surgical waste and determines whether the removed tissue was cancerous. An auditory signal will keep the surgeon informed about whether the removed tissue includes cancerous tissues. 

Lehtonen finds that the new device has a number of advantages: its operating principle is simple, and it does not interfere with the surgeon’s workflow or obstruct the utilisation of other methods. Using the device will enable removing less healthy tissue and more cancerous tissue.

Market entry in 2024

Clinical trials with the device will soon begin at the Kuopio University Hospital (KUH). If everything goes as planned, device sales will begin in 2024.

The company’s background lies in observations made as a part of research conducted at the KUH Microsurgery Center of Eastern Finland

– We came to the conclusion that the best way to utilise our discoveries is to start a company, Lehtonen explains.

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery Antti-Pekka Elomaa, who chairs the company’s Board, recently presented the invention to end-users at a training for Nordic neurosurgeons where it received the award for the best scientific innovation. Indeed, the company aims to introduce its product to the international market immediately, as it provides a solution to a global problem.

Marginum has also received local recognition as it won the annual Tahko Ski Lift Pitch 2022 competition.

Publicity brings mutual benefits

Marginum joined Kuopio Health to create more connections with research institutions. Samu Lehtonen also believes that the ecosystem may provide opportunities for cooperation with other members and the publicity achieved together will benefit everyone.

The innovation ecosystem could also provide advice for newly founded companies, including recommendations for a quality assurance system or events worth attending. The company also wishes to receive help and support from the network once it is in the process of launching its product to the market. 

Lehtonen is satisfied that Marginum’s operations have been progressing well without any major setbacks.

– This has been a learning process for me and I don’t have a lot of prior business experience. Many new companies could benefit from counselling specialised in health tech, he notes.

Read more about Marginum

Read more about Kuopio Health membership