Just Behind The News in Health and Medicine as Scientists Make Cancer Cells Glow. A new study suggests that a fluorescent agent capable of making cancer cells glow could significantly improve cancer surgery.
A novel fluorescent agent that lights up cancer cells, causing them to stand out from normal tissue, could help surgeons more effectively detect and remove cancer in its entirety, new research suggests.
The agent, LUM015, is readily broken down by enzymes known as proteases, which occur in relative abundance in cancer cells. The breakdown of LUM015 results in the release of a fluorescent indicator. The new work, involving mice and 15 human cancer patients, shows that the fluorescent probe accumulates specifically in tumors. Its presence was detected using a specialized handheld imaging device.
The study, published online January 6, 2016, in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggests that LUM015 could fill a valuable role in identifying and locating cancer cells left behind following tumor resection (surgery to remove a tumor). The removal of residual cancer cells is critical, since they can metastasize (spread) and fuel the growth of new tumors, resulting in additional operations and chemotherapy.
Whether the fluorescent agent can penetrate deep inside solid tissue, where residual cancer cells often lurk, remains unclear. With further refinement, however, LUM015 could be used to not only locate residual cancer cells but also facilitate cancer detection more generally.
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