Effectiveness of surgery as a cancer treatment is reduced when all cancer cells are not detected during surgery, leading to recurrences that negatively impact survival. To maximize cancer cell detection during cancer surgery, we designed an in situ intraoperative, label-free, optical cancer detection system that combines intrinsic fluorescence spectroscopy, diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, and Raman spectroscopy. Using this multimodal optical cancer detection system, we found that brain, lung, colon, and skin cancers could be detected in situ during surgery with an accuracy, sensitivity, and specificity of 97%, 100%, and 93%, respectively. This highly sensitive optical molecular imaging approach can profoundly impact a wide range of surgical and noninvasive interventional oncology procedures by improving cancer detection capabilities, thereby reducing cancer burden and improving survival and quality of life. Cancer Res; 77(14); 3942–50. ©2017 AACR.