Dr. Zarrine-Afsar’s current research interests revolve around the development of novel molecular oncology methods as they relate to rapid pathology and tumour type or subtype characterization, with a special current focus on neuro-oncology. In particular, the utility of a hand held Picosecond InfraRed Laser (PIRL) desorption probe for rapid tumour type or subtype/subgroup identification based on real time, 10-second mass spectrometry (MS) analysis of the laser extracted tumour lipids and small molecule metabolites is being investigated. Current progress have made rapid determination of pediatric medulloblastoma (MB) subgroup affiliations on intrasurgical timescales possible with only 10-seconds of sampling and total analysis time, with a correct subgroup affiliation determination rate of ~98%, established over 100 independent banked ex vivo tumour tissues. A translational device development program based on the integration with surgical navigation platforms of the hand-held probe are being pursued that will lead to the novel concept of molecularly guided surgery based on spatially encoded mass spectrometry results for a personalized approach to MB resection that is aimed to reduce neurologic morbidity in low risk patients. The utility of the developed sampling probe that operates on the basis of Screening Multiple Ablated Residues from Tissue is being expanded to other cancers through parallel developments of PIRL-MS signature libraries as well as real time, higher-order data and multivariate statistical analysis methods.
The eventual deployment of the SMART probe equipped with 3D tracking will enable the concept of spatially encoded mass spectrometry pathology to allow molecularly guided surgery for both optimized margin resections and personalized intervention using real time mass spectrometry feedback. The utility of medical imaging contrast agents is being explored collaboratively for efficient targeting of the probe. In combination with guided mass spectrometry imaging concept that uses feedback from a rapid, wide-field imaging methods to preplan the acquisition of mass spectra from regions of interest optimized work flows for interventional mass spectrometry are being developed.