Glowing cells guide cancer surgeons

Most malignant ovarian tumours express high numbers of receptors for the molecule folate (also known as vitamin B9), so by attaching the fluorescent molecule fluorescein iso-thiocyanate to folate, researchers created a cancer-cell probe. After injecting this into patients, labelled cells were made to glow white with a special camera and light, allowing surgeons to spot cancerous tissue even when cells were otherwise indistinguishable from their healthy counterparts. “This provides more accuracy and more certainty for clinicians to remove cancerous cells in real time during surgery,” says study leader Vasilis Ntziachristos of the Technical University of Munich in Germany. The results are published today in Nature Medicine. Of all the gynaecological cancers — ovarian, vaginal and uterine — ovarian is the greatest killer of women in both the United States and Europe. Removing as much cancerous tissue as possible during surgery is crucial to giving post-operative chemotherapy the best possible chance to kill the remaining cancer cells.

October 4, 2011

Original web page at Nature