Glow-in-the-dark technique could revolutionise cancer surgery

19 September 2011

Cancer treatment will be made easier and more effective with a new surgery which lights up tumour cells, new research has shown.

Clusters of ovarian cancer cells can often be missed by traditional surgery methods. The light molecule option allows cells smaller than 3mm to be detected more easily.

Professor Philip Low, who invented the technique, said: "Ovarian cancer is notoriously difficult to see. This technique allows surgeons to a spot a tumour 30 times smaller than the smallest they could detect using standard techniques."

The research team led by Prof Low at Purdue University in West Lafayette, US found that if a patient is injected with a modified form of folic acid that binds to the ovarian cells two hours before the surgery, the chances of spotting cancerous cells is greatly increased.

Trials of the surgery took place at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

According to figures from Cancer Research, in 2008 6,537 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and 4,373 died from the disease.

Posted by Philip Briggs

Low, Philip S. et al, " Intraoperative tumor-specific fluorescence imaging in ovarian cancer by folate receptor-α targeting: first in-human results", Nature Medicine (2011), September 18th 2011.


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