Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Scientists Develop Glowing Dye That Can be Used to Find Cancer Cells

Scientists have developed a fluorescent dye that makes it easier to see cancerous tissue with the naked eye. The dye, which adheres to cancer cells, offers surgeons ‘a second pair of eyes’ and could potentially be used to eradicate the disease and prevent it from returning.

glowing dye
The glowing dye clings onto cancer cells, which allows surgeons to identify them with precision during surgery

More specifically, the dye can be used during surgery to highlight small areas of cancerous tissue that normally cannot be seen by the naked eye.

With the fluorescent dye, however, surgeons will be able to eradicate every cancerous cell while preserving healthy tissue. This could help prevent life-changing or debilitating side effects that often come after surgery.

The technique was developed by a group of surgeons and scientists at the University of Oxford in collaboration with ImaginAb Inc, a California-based biotech company.

In the first trial, 23 men with prostate cancer were given injections of the fluorescent dye before receiving prostate surgery. During the procedure, the marker dye successfully highlighted the cancerous tissue and where it had spread, such as the lymph nodes and pelvis.

For the technique, the medical team used a special imaging system to shine a light on the prostrate, which caused the cancerous tissue to glow.

More specifically, it involved combining the dye with IR800-IAB2M, a targeting molecule that attaches itself to an antigen found on the surface of cancerous prostate cells.

The marker dye will allow surgeons to identify cancer cells during surgery

This allowed surgeons to effectively strip away the cancer cells while preserving healthy areas.

Details of the breakthrough technology were published in the European Journal of Nuclear Medicine on Monday June 10.

The professor of surgery at the University of Oxford, Freddie Hamdy, who is also the lead author of the study, said ‘it’s the first time [they’ve] managed to see fine details of prostate cancer in real time’. He believes the technique will provide cancer patients with the best quality of life after surgery.

A Successful Operation

David Butler was one of the 21 men who participated in the trial

77-year-old David Butler from Southmoore, Oxfordshire, was one of the 23 men to participate in the trial. Prior to the surgery, scans had showed that his cancer had spread.

Following the surgery, he is now fully recovered and cancer-free. He describes himself as a ‘lucky man’ as it has allowed him to ‘enjoy every moment’ of his life.

While the fluorescent dye technique was only used in those with prostate cancer in the trial, it could be adapted to other types of cancer by switching the protein with which it attaches itself to cancerous tissue, according to experts.

Dr. Foulkes, the executive director of research at Cancer Research UK explained that while surgery can be effective for those with early stage cancer, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether or not the cancerous cells have spread just by looking with the naked eye.

With the marker dye, however, they will be able to determine which cells are cancerous.

While further trials on larger groups of patients will be necessary for testing, experts are hopeful that the new imaging and marker dye system will ‘fundamentally transform’ the way cancer treatments work in the future.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.


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