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Injectable Agent Illuminates Cancer During Surgery

Technology may help surgeons identify and remove more malignant cells

FRIDAY, Jan. 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) — A new imaging technique that fluoresces cancer cells may eventually help surgeons locate and remove all of a cancerous tumor on the first attempt, according to a preliminary study published in the Jan. 6 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

The early trial, involving both mice and a small number of human patients, used a preoperative injection of a blue liquid called LUM015 directly into the region where the cancer is located. The liquid then spreads into tumor tissue instead of healthy tissue. According to the study authors, this is the first protease-activated imaging agent for cancer that has been tested for safety in humans.

Once the tumor tissue is removed during surgery, a specially designed hand-held imaging probe is placed at the surgical site. Cancer cells left behind glow roughly five times brighter than healthy tissue, the researchers said. Surgeons can then remove the malignant cells on the spot, theoretically reducing the need for a follow-up operation.

To date, the study has involved research with mice and a group of 15 patients, all of whom were diagnosed with either breast cancer or soft-tissue sarcoma. With human patients, the research team has so far studied the fluorescent impact on tumor tissue already removed from each patient. Among mice, the team has performed real-time removal of cancerous cells based on identification by the technique. The study authors said the technique has produced no side effects and appears safe.

Lumicell Inc. provided the imaging agents for the study.

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