If successful, the needle microscopes could be rolled out in operating theatres around the world within a decade.
Associate Professor Robert McLaughlin says pathology testing will always be required after surgery to remove cancer, even if the needle microscope makes operations more accurate.
The quality of the images produced so far has drawn interest from surgeons looking at brain and lung disease.
“We’re building the microscope into his biopsy needles so that he can take safer brain biopsies in neurosurgery.”
Associate Professor McLaughlin says the technology could also unlock the secrets of lung function.
“If we can understand what’s going on in the lungs with diseases like emphysema then maybe we can help scientists develop better drugs to treat those sorts of diseases,” he added.
But for now, the most promising results appear to be in identifying breast cancer cells, and making the microscope safe and effective is paramount.
“You’ve got to keep in mind that those patients are probably going through one of the worst days in their lives,” Associate Professor McLaughlin said.
“It’s important for us to not make it any more complicated.”