Rethinking Healthcare

New spray illuminates hard-to-spot tumors within minutes

Posting in Cancer

Fluorescence of ovarian cancer cells were observed in less than 90 seconds. The new spray would help surgeons remove residual tumors that may have spread throughout the body.

Researchers have developed a way to light up tiny, hidden tumors with a fluorescent spray.

Within minutes, doctors can track down residual cancer that spread and scattered throughout the body – helping to ensure that no tumors are left behind during surgery.

The main ingredient in the new spray probe is a green dye called gGlu-HMRG, which triggers a chemical reaction when it comes into contact with some cancer cells. Nature News explains:

it glows after being transformed by an enzyme that sits in the cell membrane of ovarian cancer cells. It is activated during passage into the cell, so the probe only starts to glow once inside the diseased tissue.

Current tumor imaging procedures can take up to several hours or even days. “Our probe is actuated in minutes or even seconds – that’s very important for the surgeon, who can’t necessarily wait 20 minutes,” says study researcher Hisataka Kobayashi of the National Institutes of Health.

  1. The team observed ‘rapid fluorescence’ in less than 10 minutes after adding the dye to ovarian cancer cells in the lab.
  2. Then they tried the spray on mice with human ovarian tumors. Within a minute of spraying the probe directly onto tissue inside the body, they observed bright fluorescent regions in the abdominal cavity where the cancerous lesions were (pictured).
  3. Now that they’re clearly identifiable, the small tumors were quickly removed from the living mice using tweezers.

You can watch a video of glowing mouse tumors here (but it’s really not for the squeamish).

The team’s working on producing a compound suitable for human studies and for other cancers, like gastric, colon, liver, and uterine cancer.

The study was published in Science Translational Medicine yesterday.

Video/images: Yasuteru Urano

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Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure