A microscopic system to detect lung cancer called CelTivity is being pioneered at a few hospitals across the nation, and one of them is UPMC Hamot.

The Boston based company reached out to UPMC Hamot to evaluate the technology, because of the pioneering work Stephen Kovacs, D.O. Co-Director of the UPMC Hamot Comprehensive Lung Center is already doing. 

In 2018, UPMC Hamot and Dr. Kovacs were first in the country to use robotic bronchoscopy to see inside the lungs to extract hard to reach tissue samples for biopsy.  

Adding CelTivity technology is improving cancer detection at UPMC Hamot even more. "When we blow that up and look at that in a microscopic level, I can see what those cells are doing and I can use that information to ensure that where we are biopsying is getting us the most information that's going to provide a diagnosis as quick and as efficient as we can for patients."

UPMC Hamot physicians showed Erie News Now images of a needle biopsy lung droplet and a bit of tissue examined and illuminated by the CelTivity microscopic system.  

Described as a PET scan for cancer cells, the system makes active cancer cells glow a bright yellow.  And what shows up as yellow is most likely the active, moving and multiplying lung cancer cells.

Dr. Kovacs said not only can he see cancer cells from fluid or tissue samples taken right during a needle biopsy on a patient, but the results have a much higher rate of accurate cancer detection ability - 96% detected as compared to 57% detected with traditional methods.

UPMC Hamot has completed more than 100 lung biopsy procedures in the last 6 months using this advanced cancer detection system, that's one quarter of all the procedures to date in the U.S.

Statistics show that 90% of all people diagnosed with lung cancer do not survive, because in many cases the diagnosis comes when the cancer is already at an advanced stage. 

UPMC Hamot Medical Director Dr. Gregory Beard said the quicker and easier diagnosis of cancer through Celtivity is very promising. "Obviously the earlier you diagnose any cancer the more likely you are to get a definitive cure. So from our standpoint having this technology here in UPMC Hamot first and having Dr. Kovacs driving that agenda for us is really fantastic, we're very excited," Dr. Beard said.