Cancer is a deadly disease that has claimed the lives of many people around the world. In 2018, 9.6 million deaths were caused by cancer.
Since there is no cure yet, surgery remains one of the best forms of treatment.
Surgery, which is used to diagnose or remove cancerous cells, has been moved to a higher level by an invention made by a Nigerian-born radiologist named Dr. Samuel Achilefu. The cancer goggles he invented will help surgeons see cancerous cells faster and easily.
|Age||59 years old|
|place of birth||Northern Nigerian|
Dr. Samuel Achilefu Biography
He was born in 1963, in northern Nigeria. When he was five years old, he and his family relocated to the south-east.
Dr. Samuel Achilefu Education
Dr. Samuel Achilefu had his primary and secondary education in the south-east. During this period he won a French government scholarship to attend graduate school in France.
He got his PhD in Molecular And Materials Chemistry at the University of Nancy and had his post-doctoral studies at Oxford University, training on the “interface between chemistry and haematology, working on developing blood substitutes”. He went further to join research institutes and laboratories.
Dr. Samuel Achilefu Inventing Cancer Goggles
Before he created the goggles, it was difficult for doctors to carry out surgeries on cancer patients. This inspired Dr Samuel Achilefu to make these glasses. He said:
“I thought, what if we create something that lets one see things that aren’t available to the ordinary human eye…?” he stated during an award acceptance speech at the Eric P. Newman Education Centre in St Louis.
It took Achilefu and his team five years to create these goggles. The goggles help doctors to easily and effectively differentiate between malignant cells and normal cells during surgery.
This is achieved by making the cancer cells glow byinjecting the patient with an infrared fluorescent marker which is picked up by the goggles.
The use of the goggles also helped in the reduction of the need for extra surgical procedures for the patients.
“A limitation of surgery is that it’s not always clear to the naked eye the distinction between normal tissue and cancerous tissue. With the glasses developed by Dr Achilefu, we can better identify the tissue that must be removed,” said Ryan Fields, MD, an assistant professor of surgery.
Dr. Achifelu’s cancer goggles have been used successfully in over 27 operations involving skin, liver and breast cancers.
“My final goal is really to make it a routine system that we can use in all hospitals,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera. “For brain surgery for example, where you do not have the luxury of taking a lot of tissue, and you have to be highly specific. In that particular case, these goggles would be a lifesaver. The goal is to be able to detect very small cells but the current imaging systems are not capable of doing that”.
Dr. Achilefu’s invention and ground-breaking research has brought him over 30 local and international honours and awards including the following:
The prestigious Britton Chance Biomedical Optics Award in 2019 at SPIE
Distinguished Investigator Award in 2018 (Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research)
The Carl and Gerty Cori Faculty Achievement Award in 2018 (Washington University) Excellence in Healthcare Award in 2017 (St. Louis American)
The first Department of Defense Distinguished Investigator Award in 2016 (DoD Breast Cancer Research Program)
Becoming the first recipient of the Breast Cancer Research Programme Distinguished Investigator Award in 2016
Outstanding Scientist Award in 2015 (St. Louis Academy of Science)
Best Global Impact 2015 (Alive magazine)
St. Louis Innovator Award 2015
The Medical Innovation Award in 2014 (St. Louis Business Journal)
The St. Louis Award in 2014 (St. Louis Award Committee)
Featured Innovator 2014 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
Achiever Award 2008 (Blacks in Science)
Extraordinary Performance Award 1998 (Mallinckrodt, Inc.)
Technical Innovation Award 1995 (Mallinckrodt Medical, Inc.).
Extraordinary performance award, Mallinckrodt, Inc 1995
Dr. Samuel Achilefu is happily married with two children.