The prognosis for a cancer patient who undergoes surgery is better if the surgeon removes all of the tumor, but it can be hard to tell where a tumor ends and healthy tissue begins. Now, scientists report in ACS Sensors that they have developed a fluorescent spray that specifically lights up cancerous tissue so it can be identified readily and removed during surgery.
Surgeons often use sight and touch to identify cancerous tissue, but this approach can miss small tumors, as well as diseased cells at the margins between a tumor and healthy tissue. Fluorescence-guided surgery is an emerging technology that could enhance this difference. The method relies on fluorescent probes that target cancerous tissue and heighten its visibility. But some of these compounds must be administered many hours or days before surgery—sometimes necessitating a long hospital stay—and they might not reveal tiny tumors. In addition, these compounds can require a large dose if they’re injected, or a washing step to get rid of excess dye if they’re applied to the tumor site. So Ching-Hsuan Tung and colleagues set out to develop a fluorescent probe to rapidly visualize diseased tissue, even on a small scale, when sprayed on a surgical site or injected.
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