New method to detect cancer

A fluorescent spray could help surgeons quickly identify cancer

Cancer surgeons strive to kill cancer cells and preserve as much healthy tissue as possible. Unfortunately, cancer cells are notoriously difficult to identify with the naked eye.

A group led by Hisataka Kobayashi of the National Cancer Institute has developed a fluorescent spray that can highlight cancer cells in less than a minute. The idea is that surgeons could apply it during or after surgery to find any cancer cells that have escaped them.

Several research teams have been working on fluorescent markers for cancer cells that can serve as a visual guide for surgeons, but the other methods generally take much longer to work.

Researchers demonstrated the spray's ability to highlight cancer cells in mice in a study published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine. Fluorescence is activated by an enzyme called gamma glutamyl transpeptidase, which is abundant in tumor cells but not in normal cells. The probe that Kobayashi and his team designed contains a chemical target for the tumor enzyme. The enzyme splits the chemical on contact with it and this activates the fluorescence signal.

Source: Technology Review

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