When a patient undergoes surgery for cancer, it's important to get every last cell of the tumor out — but cancer cells can be hard to see. To help surgeons see cancer cells more clearly, a team of American and European researchers lit up the cancer cells and made them glow, says Veronique Greenwood at the 80beats blog. In their study published in Nature Medicine, the researchers describe how they tagged ovarian tumor cells with a glowing protein. Many ovarian cancer cells over-express a receptor for folate on their surfaces, and the researchers exploited this by infusing patients with a folate that had a fluorescent tag attached to it, Greenwood says. During surgery, the team shone a laser on the patient's ovaries, which lit up the tagged folate on a nearby computer screen. "This clear marker, they think, made it easier to remove every last bit of the tumors — in eight of their nine patients, the team noticed small tumors they would have missed otherwise," Greenwood adds. The study doesn't address what the long-term results of this surgical technique were, but that question could be addressed by larger, follow-up studies.
Sep 21, 2011