New Imaging Technique May Enhance Accuracy of Cancer Surgery

Use of a chemofluorescence technique may allow surgeons to visualize, in real time, cancerous tissue, thereby increasing the precision of their resections, according to animal study findings presented Tuesday at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia. The technique makes use of a portable system called FLARE, short for Fluorescence-Assisted Resection and Exploration, which consists of a near-infrared imaging system, a video monitor, and a computer.

"The system has no moving parts, uses LEDs instead of lasers for excitation, makes no contact with the patient, and is sterile," project director Dr. John Frangioni, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in a statement.

With the technique, near-infrared fluorophores, a special type of chemical dye, are injected into patients. The fluorophores are designed to target cancer cells and will show up under near-infrared light. Images of the glowing cancer cells can then be superimposed over images of the surgical field to help surgeons know precisely where to cut.

The technique has shown promise in visualizing organs and body fluids in mice and pigs. The first human studies are slated to begin this summer, starting with lymph node mapping in a small group of breast cancer patients.

Reviewed by Ramaz Mitaishvili, MD


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