Posted on July 10, 2019

A probe that lights up when detecting cancer could help surgeons more accurately remove tumours during surgery, say researchers at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. It also has the potential to detect cancer in lymph nodes during surgery.

Led by college professor of chemistry Donal O’Shea, the research team has identified the potential benefit of fluorescence imaging as a way of detecting cancer cells during surgery.

“This is a very significant development which has the potential to transform the surgical management of cancer, improving outcomes for patients,” said Prof O’Shea. “Almost 60% of all cancer patients will undergo surgery as part of their treatment.”

The research, published in the journal Chemical Science, says incomplete tumour removal during surgery “is closely related to cancer reoccurrence and patient survival rates”.

It says a “major challenge in achieving cancer-free margins is to fully distinguish between all of the cancerous growth and normal tissue during surgery”, and that while high definition images obtained by PET, CT or MRI scans identify and diagnose tumour growths prior to surgery, “such images are not overly useful to guide surgical resection during the operation”.

The researchers tested fluorescence imaging using a human breast tumour model in mice. According to the college, it has the potential to transform surgical management of cancer.

“A new technology that could improve surgical outcomes by giving the surgical team real-time, informative images during the surgical procedure would have a wide-ranging and sustained impact on the care of cancer patients,” Prof O’Shea said.

He said their next goal is a clinical trial.

By Catherine Shanahan for The Irish Examiner

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